Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Green light on MIQ-free RSEs

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The hoped-for quarantine free travel for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) staff has been given the official green light, with the first workers due to arrive from the Pacific Islands in October. Former HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman has been working closely with the Government on RSE issues and says the announcements simply confirms what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had proposed early in August.
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The hoped-for quarantine free travel for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) staff has been given the official green light, with the first workers due to arrive from the Pacific Islands in October.

Former HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman has been working closely with the Government on RSE issues and says the announcements simply confirms what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had proposed early in August.

“And there are still a few details to be worked out around timing. We also have those workers who were due to arrive who were supposed to go into MIQ, who are still to come first,” Chapman said.

Their arrival had been delayed due to the lockdown in August.

About 450 workers fall into this category, with the equivalent of two planeloads from Vanuatu and one from Samoa.

“We really just need the dates for their arrival to be tied down, so we can arrange those flights,” he said.

The quarantine-free RSE workers will be coming from Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu and will be required to receive their first vaccination pre-departure. They will have day zero and day five covid tests, with a self-isolation period of seven days. It is anticipated workers will be kept in team bubbles, ferried to and from work sites.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor says the RSE workers are a starting point for new worker arrivals because they come to NZ as a cohort, work together and live in employer accommodation.

“This helps mitigate any additional risk from covid-19 by ensuring they go into self-isolation in a pre-organised place immediately upon arrival,” O’Connor said.

Chapman says he anticipated the workers will be spread evenly across the country, with teams in the North Island working on apple and kiwifruit bud thinning, while those in Otago would be engaged in the last of late-season pruning.

Hopes are that at least 12,000 RSE workers will be employed this season and it is estimated about 4000 are still in NZ, not having left after the last lockdown.

He says there was no shortage of work opportunities and the industry was even shorter for staff in the absence of tourist backpackers who have previously provided a pool of at least 50,000 potential staff to source from.

O’Connor says the Government’s intention is to broaden eligibility for quarantine-free entry to NZ from the Pacific Island countries and Tokelau, once it was safe to do so.

“In the meantime, other people entering NZ from these countries will need to meet existing MIQ requirements.”

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