Grapes will rot on the vines without Govt action

The Government should increase the number of seasonal workers allowed into New Zealand, otherwise we will see severe labour shortages across the viticulture sector, National’s Viticulture spokesperson Stuart Smith says.

According to the industry, there has been more than 3000 applications made for the 2000 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme spaces recently allocated, which will create a severe labour shortage.

“Our viticulture industry needs workers experienced in the wine industry,” Mr Smith says.

“The industry managed to scrape through the pruning season at a significant cost, but there are tough times ahead due to a lack of seasonal staff and not enough Kiwis to take up the roles.

“It’s time to allow seasonal workers from Pacific countries to isolate in bubbles provided by the industry. The countries where these workers come from are Covid-free so there is little-to-no risk of transmission in transit.”

National’s plan involves compulsory pre-departure testing and post-arrival testing to keep Kiwis safe. This would see workers receive Covid-19 tests on days three and 12 of their stay in isolation, in addition to providing a negative test before boarding their flight to New Zealand.

The isolation bubbles would need to be Ministry of Health approved and monitored, including wastewater testing.

“We shouldn’t be forcing RSE workers to spend 14 days doing nothing in hotels when they could be isolating in industry-provided accommodation, under strict conditions, and getting to work helping our viticulture sector contribute to our economic recovery,” Mr Smith says.

“Not only would this help the industry, it would also free up precious space in MIQ facilities for Kiwis trying desperately to get home.

“New Zealand needs a coordinated, pragmatic border and immigration strategy that is flexible and safe. The Government should be making these changes but it is being too slow to act.

“New Zealand wineries contribute $2 billion in exports, the last thing we want to see is our grapes rotting on the vine. The industry needs workers now.”