Getting drivers in tractor seats

Rural Contractors NZ CEO Roger Parton.

Rural Contractors NZ CEO Roger Parton is welcoming the move by government to allow 210 agricultural and horticultural mobile plant operators into NZ to help with this cropping and harvest season.

But he says the industry is now reliant on the swiftness of government departments to put the processes in place to get workers on the ground as quickly as possible.

“We appreciate being able to bring in the 210 workers – but we are pushing the barrow at this stage because the season is already starting,” says Roger, who says maize is already going in the ground.

“So I’m working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and Immigration NZ to get this all in place as quickly as possible – but we have two issues.

“First, is bringing the people into NZ and getting flights for that; the second is the two weeks’ quarantine facility they have to go into when they arrive.”

“So yes it is good news, but getting everybody on the ground – that is the real issue.”

Roger says RCNZ has told the Government, like in Bluegrass Contracting’s situation – see page 26 of this edition – that some agricultural operators do require workers for eight months each season.

The Government announced mid-September that it had established class exceptions for border entry for a limited number of veterinarians, deep sea fishing crew, plus agricultural and horticultural machinery operators – but these exceptions would have a six-month time limit.

“But the border exemption for critical other workers – if you want people here longer than six months – there are salary implications you’d have to meet and that is way outside what we’re talking about.

“So the only way is within a six-month period and we will be arguing that the two weeks’ mandatory quarantine should not be inclusive of that six month time-limit for working here. It should be exclusive.”

Roger says those contractors in need of workers over an eight-month period are now faced with double-dipping – using local people if they can and then bringing in foreign workers at a later time with the cost of travel and of isolation. “And there’s not a lot we can do about those costs at this stage.”

The 210 workers figure was determined by RCNZ surveying its membership to calculate the bare minimum of overseas workers they would need to get through this cropping/harvesting season.

And with MPI, Immigration NZ and RCNZ working together on the process, Roger hopes the industry can get workers on the ground as soon as possible.

“We have to arrange air travel and arrange beds in quarantine facilities and suchlike. We do have people ready to start in October and November – and we hope to address the most urgent needs first.

“But really, we’re reliant on the ability of government to respond quickly on it.”


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