From October recognised seasonal employer (RSE) workers will be allowed one-way quarantine-free travel into Aotearoa from Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu in a bid to help the horticulture industry recover.
However, requirements for RSE workers include having had their first vaccination pre-departure, taking day zero and day five tests, and completing a self-isolation period of seven days, pending a negative day five result.
“We want to provide certainty to the horticulture industry that we are moving forward with safe quarantine-free travel for RSE workers in time for the upcoming picking season,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.
“To minimise risk, we are putting in place additional health measures for these workers," Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“We need to take a cautious approach to opening up quarantine-free travel with the Pacific. While Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu haven’t had any community cases of Covid-19 we know first-hand how quickly Delta can spread if it gets in,” Hipkins said.
Up to 14,400 RSE workers usually come through New Zealand each year, with approximately 10,500 in the country at peak harvesting times pre-Covid.
“We will be closely monitoring this first stage of one-way quarantine-free travel. Our intention remains to broaden eligibility for quarantine-free entry to New Zealand from these countries and Tokelau when we can be sure it is safe to do so. In the meantime, other people entering New Zealand from these countries will need to meet existing MIQ requirements.
O'Connor thanked Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu "for their close cooperation with us on this significant step in reconnecting our countries".
Officials in New Zealand are working with Pacific partners and the industry to finalise the necessary precautions, with exact flight dates in October to be confirmed.