If it's good enough for the Aussies then why not RSE workers from Samoa?
That's the question New Zealand Apples & Pears business development manager Gary Jones wants people to keep asking.
Jones gave a briefing on the pipfruit industry on Thursday to Hastings District Council's Operations and Monitoring Committee.
He highlighted the inconsistency of allowing Australian tourists into New Zealand, when there are community cases of Covid in Australia, while limiting the arrival of much-needed Pacific Island workers who come from Covid-free nations.
Those workers are required to quarantine.
"Samoa for example is Covid free and we bring them into the one place in New Zealand where we know there's Covid," he said.
"We stick them into MIQ and then we send them out into our industries.
"I can assure you, if we found a case of Covid in one of our supply chains the Chinese government would insist on the immediate shut down of that supply chain from that company and a full product recall."
To mitigate the risk to their business he said many employers chose to re-isolate workers upon their arrival in Hawke's Bay.
"If we let Australians in without MIQ why can't we let the Pacific in without MIQ?
"Nobody has been able to answer it yet. I just want people to ask the question."
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said New Zealand would look at quarantine free travel arrangements with other COVID-free countries "as and when it is safe to do so".
"Any Quarantine Free Travel Arrangement can pose further risk to New Zealand, as countries can see incursions at the border even when they haven't had COVID-19 for some time," he said.
"The recent cases in Australia are an example of this."
"Currently, anyone travelling to New Zealand from any country except Australia must complete 14 days in managed isolation. This includes those travelling for economic means, and is to ensure the safety of New Zealanders.
"We have ensured spaces will be available in managed isolation for RSE workers over the coming months, to ensure businesses can plan for the seasons ahead."
Jones said New Zealand Apples & Pears wanted vaccinations to protect vulnerable communities and assist RSE workers to be allowed home.
"I think where things may go is we will just end up with quite a large group of Pacific Island workers stuck here until we vaccinate.
"We are certainly working with the Hawke's Bay District Health Board to vaccinate workers before they leave.
"We are certainty working with government and New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade around how we might vaccinate workers before they arrive.
"Also how we might vaccinate our broader employees and their households within our supply chain, which represent at-risk parts of the community."
While the apple export crop has mostly been picked this year, it is too early to say how badly compromised the harvest was this season due to the shortage of RSE workers.
Anecdotal reports suggest good weather has allowed consistent picking and good colour enabled some trees to be strip picked, compared with the usual three picks per tree.
Jones said many permanent jobs for New Zealanders are reliant on a successful harvest.
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