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Source: MIL-OSI Submissions
Source: Pacific Cooperation Foundation

Pacific Cooperation Foundation Chair, John Fiso is urging decision makers not to overlook the opportunity to solve the horticultural industry’s looming worker shortage with a very real solution which will also benefit our Pacific neighbours.

“By quickly putting in the right protocols we can utilise workers from the Pacific islands to plug labour shortages. At the same time we can meet our responsibilities as part of the Government’s Pacific reset and mitigate needs for direct humanitarian aid due to the complete halt in tourism in the Pacific – their biggest earner,” says Mr Fiso.

“Telling an industry facing a potential $9.5bn loss due to worker shortages that they just have to cope is simply not a practical response,” says Mr Fiso.

“I agree that looking after New Zealanders is a priority, but we also have a responsibility to our Pacific neighbours, especially the Pacific realm countries who hold New Zealand passports which therefore means they are under our guardianship.

“As stated before, it is a win-win –  for our short-staffed orchardists and fruit growers, as well as our brothers and sisters in the Pacific islands,” Mr Fiso says.

“Allowing the Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) to return would mean a lot to fanau in the Pacific who are hugely affected by the impact of closed borders, loss of jobs and income, and the decline in economic activity. At the same time, it prevents millions of dollars of produce in New Zealand going to waste.

“There are humanitarian and economic benefits to this.

Mr Fiso also argues that industry-managed quarantining can work for countries in the RSE scheme that are COVID-19 free such as Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu, if protocols are in place.

“In Australia, it is reported that 160 seasonal workers have been recruited from Vanuatu and have started working earlier this month, harvesting mango in Darwin. If it can work for Australia, it can certainly work for New Zealand.

“While the need to give unemployed New Zealanders a priority for employment, not all of them would be opting for this work.

“New Zealand is making special quarantine arrangements for the foreign film industry and sports teams – why can’t the same happen for people from the Pacific?

“We have known about the impacts of COVID since March, yet we are still arguing about a pragmatic response to one of our most important industries as well as honouring our special relationships with our Pacific neighbours or our obligations as guardian of the realm countries,” concludes Mr Fiso.

MIL OSI