The border is NZ’s first defence against Covid-19 – but the rules will be relaxed to ensure our crops are harvested

Having reminded Parliament that New Zealanders in October elected a majority Government for the first time under our Mixed Member Proportional electoral system, and that the Government enjoys the confidence of a clear majority of members in the House of Representatives, the Speech from the Throne set out the policy programme we can expect to be implemented.

The first objective is to keep New Zealanders safe from COVID and:

“The first layer of defence is our border.  With COVID cases increasing around the world, in a growing number of countries, the risk of travelers arriving at the border with COVID increases.  The Government will continue to strengthen border protections.  Testing, infection control procedures, and professional and quality staffing will remain cornerstones of the response.”

But the speech also signalled the Government’s intention to

“ … create opportunities for businesses to access the skills they need.  The Government will ensure that up to 10 percent of places in our managed isolation facilities are used by people granted exceptions to enter New Zealand to contribute to accelerating our recovery.”

Before the day was done, exemptions were announced to enable 2000 more workers under the “recognised seasonal employers” scheme (RSE)  to enter New Zealand from January next year.

They can come from the Pacific to address labour shortages in the horticulture and wine growing sectors.

The speech from the Throne and the further relaxing of border regulations have been posted on the Beehive website along with a reminder that Covid-19 isn’t the only threat to our wellbeing.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw followed up on another programme foreshadowed in the Speech from the Throne and announced the Government will declare a climate emergency next week.  He said:

“We are in the midst of a climate crisis that will impact on nearly every aspect of our lives and the type of planet our children will inherit from us.

“Declaring a climate emergency is a clear statement of the Government’s intent to address this crisis.

“It will build on the significant progress we made last term putting in place one of the world’s most ambitious frameworks for long-term, meaningful climate action.  

“However, the only way to avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis and build a zero carbon New Zealand that meets the needs of everyone, is to take action.”

According to the Speech from the Throne, we should be braced for the Government to:

  • Respond to the first set of Climate Budgets recommended by the Climate Commission, which will set the total emissions permitted for the next fifteen years.
  • Decarbonise the transport fleet, introducing vehicle emissions standards for imported vehicles and incentivising and accelerating the uptake of electric and other low emission vehicles,
  • Prioritise investment in public transport, walking and cycling and implement region-specific plans to increase the number of people using public transport and walking and cycling.
  • Require only zero-emissions buses to be purchased by 2025 and aim to decarbonise the public transport bus fleet by 2035.

But a higher priority in the Speech from the Throne was given to the Government’s COVID recovery plan.

The numbers bandied in dollar terms are eye-watering.

A record $42.2 billion is already committed for infrastructure investment over the next four years in roads and rail, schools and hospitals, houses and energy generation.  This includes:

  • The NZ Transport Agency will receive $9.6 billion to invest in new roads and public transport projects that reduce congestion and travel times, support businesses, open up new areas for housing, and increase choice, including safer options for walking and cycling.
  • $3.8 billion is being spent on education facilities, including building new schools and classrooms for 100,000 students and starting the planned upgrade of around 180 schools right across the country over the next 10 years.
  • $3.6 billion has been committed to health, including new hospital facilities in Dunedin, Christchurch, New Plymouth, Auckland and Counties Manukau.
  • Kainga Ora will invest $9.8 billion across the next four years and the Government is on track to deliver a total of 18,000 public and transitional homes.
  • The Three Waters programme will see a $710 million investment to initiate an overhaul of the nation’s drinking, waste and stormwater infrastructure.

More than 150 smaller community infrastructure projects will roll out over the coming months and across the term as the Government invests in pools and stadiums, local fire stations and surf clubs, and libraries, art galleries, marae and museums.

The other Beehive statement to draw our attention (as we noted earlier in this post) was the border exception for 2000 RSE workers to help horticultural and wine growers.  Conditions in the fine print include:

  • agreement from employers to pay workers at least $22.10 an hour,
  • employers will meet costs of their RSE workers’ managed isolation,
  • the RSE workers will be paid the equivalent of 30 hours work a week while in managed isolation,
  • the countries wanting to send experienced RSE workers under this border exception must have agreed plans in place to take back both their workers coming under the border exception as well as other RSE employees already here from their countries when the 2020/21 season ends.

Immigration Minister Faafoi acknowledged that fewer seasonal workers would be available than in previous years.

He referred to other efforts being made by the Government to make the most of the onshore workforce.

“The announcement by Minister of Social Development, Carmel Sepuloni, to increase support for New Zealanders to work in seasonal jobs with up to $200 per week for accommodation costs and a $1000 incentive payment for workers who complete jobs of six weeks or longer demonstrates the sort of effort being made to get as many jobseekers as possible to work in the horticulture and wine growing sectors.

“These latest changes demonstrate the Government’s continued commitment to make adjustments to visa and border settings where the balance can be struck to protect New Zealanders from the spread of COVID-19, while ensuring supports are in place to protect New Zealand’s economic recovery and offer employment opportunities to New Zealanders who have lost their jobs because of COVID-19.”

 The government insists class exceptions are considered only where there is a critical workforce gap that cannot be filled domestically, there is no displacement of New Zealanders, and where industries can demonstrate a plan for education, training, wages and other activities that will attract New Zealanders into their sector.

Border exceptions have been provided for:

  • veterinarians (up to 30)
  • deep water fishing crew (up to 570)
  • agricultural mobile plant operators (up to 210).
  • PhD and post-graduate students (up to 250)
  • people who have essential reasons to travel through New Zealand to the Pacific (up to 100)
  • critical health workers (uncapped, 2,770 requests approved so far)
  • shearers (from January, up to 60)

Latest from the Beehive

27 NOVEMBER 2020

New Year border exception for seasonal workers in the horticulture and wine industries

  • 2000 additional RSE workers to enter New Zealand early next year

 26 NOVEMBER 2020

Government receives Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques

Minister for Internal Affairs Jan Tinetti has today received the Royal Commission of Inquiry report into the Terrorist Attack on Christchurch Mosques, and will table it in Parliament on Tuesday


New Zealand Government to declare a climate emergency

The Government will declare a climate emergency next week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw said today.

Call for urgent action on Pacific conservation

A declaration on the urgency of the global biodiversity crisis and the need for immediate, transformative action in the Pacific was agreed at a pan-Pacific conference today.

Speech from the throne

E aku hoa i te ara o te whai,

Kia kotahi tā tātou takahi i te kō, ko tōku whiwhi kei tō koutou tautoko mai.

Ko tāku ki a koutou, hei whakapiki manawa mōku.

One thought on “The border is NZ’s first defence against Covid-19 – but the rules will be relaxed to ensure our crops are harvested

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