Australia trying to pinch Kiwi seasonal workers with $2000 offer

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Nov 2020, 8:19PM
Kiwis are being enticed with $2000 to travel across the ditch and take up seasonal work. Photo / Supplied
Kiwis are being enticed with $2000 to travel across the ditch and take up seasonal work. Photo / Supplied

Australia trying to pinch Kiwi seasonal workers with $2000 offer

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Tue, 17 Nov 2020, 8:19PM

The Australian Government is attempting to pinch our seasonal workers in a bid to strengthen their agricultural harvesting industry by offering New Zealanders $2000 to move across the ditch.

In an email to Kiwis, sent via a not-for-profit hostel, backpackers and travel organisation, the Government is trying to entice New Zealanders by encouraging them to do their "big OE in OZ".

The offer, which has been advertised on the Australian Government jobseeker website, promises Kiwis $2000 if they complete six weeks' work of harvesting (20 hours a week minimum) in Australia's regional areas.

"From 1 November 2020 to 31 December 2021, relocation assistance will be available for people to move and take up jobs in agriculture, including harvest work," the ad says.

"You may be eligible for financial assistance to help with the costs of travel and accommodation when you relocate to take up a short-term agricultural work opportunity."

Kiwis looking at taking advantage of the offer will need to be at least 18.

One ad says if you complete your allocated harvesting commitments, you "could be enjoying a juicy Christmas bonus."

Accommodation is also on offer.

The news will likely worry New Zealand's agricultural sector who are facing alarming shortages of seasonal workers due to our borders being shut.

New Zealand is heading into peak harvest season and there aren't enough workers to get fruit off trees or vegetables from the ground.

There are now calls to the Government to ease restrictions on temporary visas to save many businesses from collapsing.

A Northland farmer is seeing his crops go to waste because his expert and specialised workforce can't get into the country.

"This could be my last crop," says Northland courgette grower Brett Heap, who grows courgettes near Waipapa in Northland. "I'm at the point where I'm not going through it again.

"I can accept losing a crop with weather, or disease, or water damage. I have real difficulty accepting I'm on the point of getting out of the industry because the Government doesn't care."

Hort NZ chief executive Mike Chapman said last week it was incredible to be facing a harvest season with unresolved issues that were known about six months ago.

Chapman wrote in May of the need for Recognised Seasonal Employer workers. To now be in November with no plan to solve workforce problems was staggering.

"We haven't slowed down our campaign to say we need to have the borders opened.

"We're not even asking Government to pay for it."

Act leader David Seymour has repeatedly called on the Government to welcome RSE workers from Covid-free countries.

"This Government is just completely out of touch with the reality of labour supply."

Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said "strict border controls" was a large part of limiting community spread of Covid-19 and "New Zealanders have made clear they value careful management of our borders".

Faafoi said the Government continued to review workforce needs and was considering visa changes for those already in New Zealand. Changes to date had allowed about 6500 RSE workers to stay in New Zealand, and given about 11,000 working holidaymakers extensions to work in horticulture and viticulture through to June 30, 2021.

He said Covid-19 meant "we are not able to operate in a world where it is business-as-usual" and it meant sectors needed to find ways around a reliance on offshore workers.

He said that included "offering better work conditions" and finding other ways of "attracting, training and retaining workers".