RSE deal too little too late

The Government’s announcement it’s allowing 2000 horticultural workers enter New Zealand through the RSE scheme is better than nothing, but it’s still just a drop in the bucket of what is actually needed, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop says.

“Overall this is a poor deal for New Zealand’s horticulture industry, for New Zealand, and for the RSE workers themselves. Firstly, 2000 workers is not enough, it’s less than one seventh of quota (which is more than 14,000) of RSE workers the sector would normally have available to pick these key export products.

“Secondly, it’s far too little and far too late. Spring and early summer crops have already missed out on these workers, but the Government has known about these problems for months, and is only acting at the eleventh hour.

“The time has come to allow RSE workers from Pacific countries to isolate in bubbles in RSE accommodation, like sports teams, provided by the industry. The countries where these RSE workers come from are Covid-free so there is little to no risk of transmission in transit as workers will come direct to New Zealand.

“The isolation bubbles must be Ministry of Health approved and monitored, including facility by facility wastewater testing.

“Pre-departure testing and post-arrival testing in New Zealand should be compulsory, but we shouldn’t be forcing RSE workers to spend 14 days in hotels when they could isolate in accommodation provided by the industry, under strict conditions. This would be better for the workers themselves, better for the industry, and free up space in MIQ facilities.

“The Government continues to make policy on the hoof, responding in ad-hoc ways, and lacks a coordinated border and immigration strategy. This was inevitable in the first months of the pandemic, but in recent weeks the lack of a coordinated plan has become starkly apparent.

“New Zealand deserves better and National will be constructively prosecuting the need for a proper border plan in the coming months.”