NSW Farmers has welcomed a NSW government policy change which allows seasonal farm workers who reside in the NSW and Victorian border zone to cross the border daily for farm work. This border crossing flexibility is a blessing for so many.
With the Queensland border now also shut and with a similar border zone policy in place, NSW Farmers is currently speaking with members to understand cross-border issues in these areas.
NSW Agriculture Minister Adam Marshall said Queensland’s decision to declare all of NSW a COVID hotspot was disingenuous.
“I feel the need to make clear that in no way does the Queensland Government’s decision reflect the current health advice here in NSW. Our state is not Victoria and is far, far from a COVID-19 hotspot,” Mr Marshall told the Tenterfield Star.
“I also feel it is a bit disingenuous of the Queensland Premier to brand all of NSW as a COVID-19 hotspot, when the majority of rural and regional communities have gone out of their way to follow health advice, social distance and have successfully kept themselves coronavirus free – such as the Northern Tablelands.”
He said he has contacted Queensland Agriculture Minister Mark Furner to seek several assurances and to discuss border crossing flexibility.
Mr Marshall said these included assurances that residents in the Northern Tablelands would be able to cross the border for work, health and groceries and that workers employed in the agricultural sector would be able to cross to carry out their work.
“I was given an assurance that exemptions would exist to allow travel in all those circumstances by permit – which means the border restrictions will mirror those first imposed a few months ago,” Mr Marshall said. “While this is pleasing, I will continue to monitor the situation closely.”
When NSW first closed its border to Victoria, farm workers were prohibited from crossing the border line for work creating major headaches for citrus growers who desperately needed harvest workers.
This situation was soon rectified and NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson commended the NSW Department of Primary Industries for listening to industry and altering the permit system to remove this issue for farmers.
“This has been a challenging time for the citrus industry during their peak harvest period,” Mr Jackson said. “It’s imperative that government and industry work together to identify ongoing labour needs across horticulture and grain industries for the rest of 2020 and into early 2021.”
Good returns for grains
Recent rainfall also means grains industries are heading for a bumper crop, Mr Jackson said. “In the coming months there will be an increased need for contractors and farm labour with predictions for a good grain harvest following extensive rain,” Mr Jackson said.
“This will mean an increased movement of harvesting contractors as well as seasonal workers in the horticulture sector across regional areas.”
International border closure
With Australia effectively closed to the outside world, it is imperative that current seasonal workers and working holiday makers in Australia are able to cross borders for the purposes of work.
“The closure of international borders means that these industries need to mobilise seasonal workers and working holiday makers already in the country – we need to ensure they can safely cross borders to meet labour demand in different industries,” Mr Jackson said.
NSW Farmers encourages clear communication between departments to ensure these issues are addressed when health orders change.
“Sudden shutdowns cause significant disruption to agricultural industries, many of which are already dealing with a difficult harvest after drought and bushfires. NSW Farmers would like to also thank the Department of Primary Industries for their work in representing growers to find a workable solution to this issue, “ Mr Jackson concluded.