More than 80 of the first seasonal workers to come to New Zealand as part of the country’s one-way travel bubble with three Pacific countries are at work in Central Otago.

A total of 154 Ni-Vanuatu workers arrived at Christchurch Airport at 6am on October 4 on a charter flight from Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila.

Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby said 83 of the 154 Ni-Vanuatu workers who came into New Zealand via the recognised seasonal employer (RSE) scheme had arrived in Central Otago later the same day.

The workers bypassed the mandatory two-week stay in managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) and had dispersed across the district to complete five days’ isolation at their places of work.

They were also required to undergo testing for Covid-19 on day zero and day five.

Both of those milestones had since passed.

To bypass MIQ, the workers needed at least a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine before they could travel, and those who were not fully vaccinated needed to get their second jab in New Zealand.

Alexandra industry recruiter Seasonal Solutions recruits the bulk of RSE workers into Central Otago and throughout the South Island.

Ms Axby said the workers’ arrival would make a “big difference” to Central Otago’s horticulture and viticulture sectors and their arrival was timely.

“At this time of year we’re really at the very beginning of the spring work, so things are just getting started really.

“They certainly will be very busy from here on in.”

The horticulture and viticulture sectors had been beset by labour shortages even before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold across the globe but border closures to control the spread of the coronavirus in New Zealand had exacerbated the problem.

That had led orchardists and vintners from across Central Otago to join in nationwide calls to allow RSE workers into the country because their nations, including Vanuatu, had been among the few places in the world to remain Covid-19 free.

Allowing the RSE workers into New Zealand marks the first economic-based border exemption announced by the government requiring mandatory vaccination and self-isolation, following the emergence of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the country.

The Ni-Vanuatu RSE workers will be joined by Samoan and Tongan workers, who were expected to arrive from Tuesday.