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Tuesday, 14 September 2021 09:55

Farmers at ease with borders

Written by  Peter Burke
Dairy farm workers crossing the Covid borders are comfortable with arrangements, says DairyNZ. Dairy farm workers crossing the Covid borders are comfortable with arrangements, says DairyNZ.

We're very understanding on what's being put in place. That's the feedback that DairyNZ has been getting from farmers just prior to a government requirement that all essential workers, including dairy farmers, crossing the border into Auckland region must get a weekly Covid test.

The new rule - conceived to reduce the spread of Covid from Auckland - was to come into effect from last Thursday. But just hours before, the Government delayed this requirement by a week, largely because of pushback from the trucking industry who said this was a complex matter and they needed more time to sort out their systems. The week delay will apply to all essential workers including dairy farmers.

Hamish Hodgson, DairyNZ Covid project manager says the feedback is that farmers are relatively comfortable about the arrangements.

"Testing stations are set up and there has been some work on providing additional testing stations close to the border, which will help farmers to get their testing done early - and hopefully their trip through the border will be a bit more smoother," Hodgson told Dairy News.

"We are advocating for that process to be as quick and seamless as possible. That's why we want the testing stations close to the border, to enable farmers who are travelling and have a bit of spare time, [to] get a test for the next week."

Hodgson says once people have a test, they will have to prove it. This proof will come via text or email on their smartphones which they can show to police at border control checkpoints.

He says the seven day testing protocol is in line with what other essential workers crossing the border have to comply with. He says farmers will likely go along with that too, as long as it's fair and a sensible approach that isn't cumbersome and doesn't prevent them getting through the border quickly.

Hodgson says much effort is being made by DairyNZ to communicate with farmers and those who service the dairy industry to ensure they are aware of any new requirements.

"To be honest the communication from Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Health have been relatively good, given that it is a fast-evolving situation, and we seem to be getting some good information from them," he says.

Hodgson says DairyNZ is widely promoting the need for all dairy farm workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19, and making sure there are plenty of places where they can get vaccinated.

"The feedback we are getting is that farmers are taking up the opportunity to get vaccinated and we are hearing quite a few stories around farmers enabling their staff to get off farm and get vaccinated," he says.

Hodgson says this is certainly in line with what DairyNZ is trying to encourage. He says they are also encouraging farmers to have a contingency plan in place to protect their businesses.

"It's good that farmers are thinking along those lines," he says.

Fonterra's Plans

As Dairy News went to press, Fonterra said it was still working through how to implement the requirements for having milk tanker drivers and other staff deal with the Covid border testing rules.

In a brief statement, the company said that its focus was on supporting staff to ensure they could comply with the new rules. Fonterra said it was seeking more clarity on the matter.

Fonterra is running its own plan to provide Covid-19 vaccinations for staff. In their statement they revealed that 4,000 doses of the vaccine have been administered but declined to say how many of their 12,000 staff are fully or partly vaccinated. They also noted that some of their staff have been vaccinated in the community.

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