Today’s announcements on MIQ border changes have been acknowledged by rural contractors but they say the mid-March start to self-isolation for much needed skilled machinery operators is too late for many contractors.

The Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says step 2 of the changes will from March 13 allow an expanded border exception for critical workers and skilled workers earning at least 1.5 times the median wage.

Rural Contractors NZ CEO Andrew Olsen says his organisation expects the Prime Minister’s announcements will mean the border exception visa endorsement through MPI will be reopened to allow contractors to apply to bring in more skilled machinery operators. In mid-December, the Government approved 200 to come in but Omicron’s spread and high MIQ demand saw this halted. The process closed 20 January and wasn’t well subscribed because of the mid-March entry dates and the burden of MIQ

“Now the cost and uncertainty of MIQ has been removed, that’s a very good and positive step to reconnect NZ families.

“Unfortunately for most contractors any arrival from mid-March at earliest, followed by a week or more of self-isolation, will mean it is getting too late for autumn harvest work. By extension, this will impact on the farmers they service and the consumers who depend on the harvest.”

Andrew Olsen says he believes most of his members will carry on working long hours and carrying the stresses of being short-staffed.

“We understand that for Government to make these decisions in the seven and a half weeks since our December 12 green light to bring in workers is incredibly rapid by their measure.

“But for contractors, that’s half a growing season and nature doesn’t wait for the wheels of Government to turn. Sadly, crops will be lost and millions of dollars of machinery will continue to sit idle.”

He says if one good thing can come from this, it is for Government to maintain the momentum and start work now with Rural Contractors NZ and Federated Farmers so a full complement of critical rural workers can be here for the start of the spring season.