OPINION: When Covid-19 first arrived in New Zealand, PM Jacinda Ardern made great play of the fact that it would be the primary sector - and that means rural NZ - would be the saviour of the economy.
This follows the arrival of two flights from Vanuatu in the past two weeks. The first flight, carrying 153 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers, landed in Christchurch on October 4. Arrivals were mostly for the Otago region.
Another flight from Vanuatu landed in Auckland last week, bringing workers mostly for orchards in Marlborough and Hawke's Bay.
A third flight carrying Samoan workers was scheduled to arrive in Auckland last weekend.
New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard says the Samoan workers will be bound for mostly Gisborne, Hawke's Bay and Nelson. "The workers will be supporting industries across the growing regions," Pollard told Rural News.
"The first flights have gone well, and preparation is well advanced for further flights at scale from November."
The Government has given the agricultural sector the green light to bring in Pacific Island workers under a quarantine free arrangement.
People arriving under the scheme must meet strict health conditions, including being vaccinated with at least one dose pre-departure, the completion of a period of self-isolation on arrival, and returning two negative Covid tests, on Day 0 and Day 5. Employers are expected to provide the self-isolation facilities.
If workers have only received one dose of the vaccine, they are expected to complete their vaccination after they arrived in New Zealand.
The scheme is open to workers from Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga at this stage.