“A completely inflexible Immigration New Zealand seems hell-bent on disrupting New Zealand’s food supply chain,” says ACT Immigration spokesperson Dr James McDowall and ACT Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.
“The Government should be on a war footing right now, shoring up export income from agriculture, but it can’t seem to take a common-sense approach to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme,” says Dr McDowall.
“Instead it is complicating the scheme and dictating to employers how they should run their businesses.
“ACT is proposing common sense solutions to see off disaster for the horticultural industry.
“This isn’t just about the Government’s failure to bring in enough skilled workers from Pacific Islands where there is no COVID-19.
“It’s about a lack of collaboration from Immigration NZ around workers who are already in the country, but perversely aren’t being allowed to work because Immigration NZ is being inflexible about who they can work for.
“ACT says Immigration NZ should be as flexible as possible around visa status and where RSE workers can work, but to them it’s as if COVID-19 never happened.
“Despite the best efforts of industry leaders, employers and MPs Immigration NZ seem completely disinterested in discussing sensible, pragmatic policies, like fast-tracked amended visas for those already in the country or overhauling the Agreement to Recruit scheme to offer employment to RSE workers,” says Dr McDowall.
“I don’t think the officials in Wellington have a clue just how dire the situation is,” says Mr Cameron.
“Sector by sector we can see disaster ahead, with the apple industry in crisis right now.
“Other vegetable growers are facing similar challenges and the berry and Kiwifruit growers are just around the corner.
“The Government’s approach has been to restrict the numbers of workers from offshore and to incentivise those on welfare to work in the horticultural sector instead.
“While well-meaning, it shows they have little to no understanding of the reality on the ground, and what’s required to harvest New Zealand’s crops.
“This is physically demanding work, and any employer in the sector will tell you the same thing – New Zealanders just don’t want the jobs, and many of those who turn up turn out to be unreliable.
“It’s unfortunate, but it’s the honest truth.”
“Our food supply chain will be heavily impacted by this failure by Immigration NZ to understand its purpose, and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi needs to wake up to that reality,” says Dr McDowall.
“ACT says we need to take a common-sense approach – fast-track visas, allow those already here to work without delay, and allow workers from COVID-19-free countries to enter without MIQ, with sensible health measures in place on the farm.
“The way MIQ is set up these workers are more likely to catch COVID-19 in an isolation facility alongside people from countries where the virus is raging.
“It’s not too late to avoid the worst of what’s to come under present policy settings, but the Government needs to listen to the sector and move fast.
“If it doesn’t, ultimately New Zealanders will pay the price at the supermarket, and growers will have reduced income, meaning less investment in one of our leading export sectors.”
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