NSW ag minister confirms plan for border zone workers

NSW ag minister confirms plan for border zone workers

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Citrus Aust welcomes Adam Marshall's green light for a border worker plan.

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CITRUS Australia has chalked up a win regarding worker movements in border zones between Victoria and NSW under current COVID restrictions.

After continued pressure from the citrus industry group, NSW agriculture minister, Adam Marshall, this morning announced that seasonal workers who have resided in the defined NSW and Victoria border zone, which includes towns such as Mildura, will be able to cross the border daily to undertake farm work in NSW by accessing a border zone resident permit.

"In order to access the permit, seasonal workers will be required to declare they have not travelled in Victoria, outside the border zone, in the last 14 days," Mr Marshall said.

"They will also be required to produce evidence of their place of residence and place of work.

"Restrictions on seasonal workers accessing the permit for 'critical services' will still apply.

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"This is an important and progressive move, ensuring our farmers have the workers they need to keep primary production moving in this State, and ensures the $1.4 billion southern horticultural industry has a successful harvest."

On Twitter, Citrus Australia chief executive officer, Nathan Hancock, declared it a "great outcome for farmers and workers", and thanked Adam Marshall, NSW DPI and the Citrus Australia team.

Citrus Australia and NSW DPI prepared a plan for the worker movement and presented it to NSW Health.

The plan presented to NSW Health at its request was based on comprehensive work conducted by industry to protect communities, growers and staff from COVID-19.

Mr Marshall thanked the strong support and assistance from industry, particularly Citrus Australia "as we have worked towards a sensible solution to this issue".

Earlier this week Citrus Australia accused the NSW Health Department of "creating unnecessary stress" by not approving a COVID-19 prevention plan that would safely enable seasonal workers residing in Victoria to continue harvesting fruit in NSW.

It said "ignorance of cross-border communities and the agriculture industry" was delaying the implementation of the plan.

Citrus Australia's Mr Hancock, said the uncertainty was causing significant financial and mental health issues.

He put the figure at costing growers $1.7 million a day.

Not all agriculture leaders in the southern states were praising the NSW government's move.

Victorian Farmers Federation vice president and vegetable grower, Emma Germano, lashed the decision on Twitter, highlighting the "10 days of lost fruit and wages".

"Min (minister) calls this common sense decision that he (Adam Marshall) and @GladysB (Gladys Berejiklian) failed to make in time despite warnings it could decimate the @CitrusAustralia season," she wrote.

"Progressive. Mate give me a break."

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