I t makes no sense people are being allowed into New Zealand to work on movies, fishing boats or to play sport, but not to work in our orchards or vineyards, Central Otago MPs say.
In a joint statement, Southland MP Joseph Mooney and Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean vow to fight to safeguard the district’s viticulture and horticulture industries, but admit they are stymied by the fact they are in opposition.
‘‘Every day that goes by is crucial — we want the Government to provide the meaningful support this industry needs now,’’ the statement said.
They said they do not have the ‘‘power’’ to exert as much influence as they would like. However, they do have the opportunity in Parliament to question ministers in the debating chamber.
‘‘The key for us is to make the most of every opportunity we get to put the case forward.
‘‘But, to be perfectly frank, it shouldn’t require that — this is a situation where the Government should be able to see sense and make the right calls without us having to challenge them every step of the way.’’
Last month an increase in the number of Covid-19 cases were attributed to Russian and Ukrainian fishers who were recruited to support New Zealand’s beleaguered fishing industry.
That lead to a cluster of cases in Christchurch’s Sudima Hotel managed isolation facility, with cases still being recorded this week.
Despite New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries also being in need of workers, those sectors were forbidden to recruit people from other countries.
‘‘In previous years, we’ve had a competent and able workforce come over from ni-Vanuatu and that should be the case again this year.’’
To further safeguard New Zealand, Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers could be chosen from Covid-19 free countries only, but still placed in quarantine on arrival.
‘‘There are people who have come and worked here before who are ready and willing to do so again.
‘‘The thought of crops going to waste because they cannot be picked is something we’re not prepared to sit back and let happen without a fuss — it would be so wrong.’’
Mr Mooney and Mrs Dean said they would advocate strongly for both horticulture and viticulture industries and the economy they support.
‘‘The last thing we want is for this issue is to become a political football.
‘‘We will offer to work constructively with the Government to come up with practical solutions.
‘‘But, time is ticking by, we have to hope the Government is receptive to what we are trying to tell them and will take the action only they can take.’’
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said he could not argue with most of the points the district’s MPs made.
‘‘I will continue to support calls for workers from the Pacific to be allowed into the country, so long as that can be done safely.
‘‘The clock is ticking very loudly though and right now my main focus is on supporting the ‘Spare Time, Spare Room’ call to action being driven by the Central Otago Recovery Response group which asks everyone in Central to play a part in resolving a problem that will affect all of us.’’
Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said he the issue should not become a ‘‘political football’’.
‘‘The country’s recovery from Covid-19 and managing the risks that the continued global spread of this virus needs to be something we are all working on at a local, national and cross-party level.’’
He had a been a voice in support of migrant workers during the pandemic and understood they would continue to be a foundation for many local industries, he said.
‘‘This is a time for creative thinking from our MPs and everyone involved, and I welcome the promised advocacy from our local MPs.’’