154 seasonal workers arrived in Christchurch from Vanuatu this morning after the Government relaxed conditions for entry last week.
At the post-cabinet press conference last Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from Vanuatu would be able to skip MIQ from today, with workers from Samoa and Tonga eligible from October 12.
Workers are required to have had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and must undergo a five-day isolation period at their place of work with day zero and day five Covid-19 tests.
They must also complete their vaccinations while in New Zealand.
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The workers will be welcomed to boost numbers in the agricultural and horticultural sectors here in New Zealand, but industry leaders are still concerned that there will still be a substantial shortfall in the numbers required.
Nick Bibby of Thornhill Horticultural Contracting told RNZ that there was little risk as the workers are all from Covid-free countries, but more clarity was needed from the Government on the future of the industry.
"We're hoping to get some more around the long-term bubble between their countries and the RSE workers - we're going to need a heap more workers in February to get the apples picked,' he said.
Len Tarivonda, Vanuatu's director of public health, said that the new protocols established for travel between the two countries are an opportunity to test the systems for safe travel with the hope that it will lead to two-way travel between Vanuatu and New Zealand.
"Naturally we are hopeful that this will lead to two-way travel between our countries, however we need to take it step by step to ensure our preparations are sound," he said. "The tourism industry in Vanuatu is keen to start its road to recovery, and we see this as a small first step, but we need to make sure we are ready. At the moment however, we will need to let our Vanuatu workers bring you a smile and a little piece of Vanuatu."
Vanuatu is currently rolling out its vaccination programme with over 40 per cent double-jabbed and 62 per cent with one dose in the capital, Port Vila as at September 26. The programme moves on to the trickier task of vaccinating residents in the outlying islands from this month.
"Vanuatu remains Covid-free, and life has been going on as usual. Ensuring our people understand the new normal and play their role in ensuring a Covid-safe environment," said the Vanuatu's Commission for Labour, Ms Murielle Metsan.