The ACT Party says the closure of a large strawberry farm in Auckland reflects the government’s failure to protect the horticulture industry.
The owner of Perry’s Berrys, Francie Perry, has confirmed to RNZ the business has stopped strawberry growing operations.
ACT leader David Seymour said the government had been to slow to let in seasonal workers from Covid-19-free countries like Samoa.
“Covid is facing every country but we have choices in how we face it,” he said.
Seymour said the government needed to ease restrictions on letting in Pacific seasonal workers in line with countries like Australia, which has accepted thousands of seasonal workers from the Pacific since the outbreak of Covid-19.
“New Zealand has barely budged, and has left our fruit rotting on the ground.
“Samoa has no Covid, they provide workers. New Zealand business provides much-needed remittances to our friends around the Pacific, and it’s pure madness that we keep our borders closed when there’s a win-win available from opening them to those Covid-free countries,” he said.
The industry group Horticulture New Zealand is also urging the government to allow quarantine-free travel for workers from Covid-free Pacific island countries.
It said otherwise businesses will die.
Horticulture New Zealand estimates the industry needs 5000 to 10,000 seasonal workers, far more than the 2000 the government allowed in late last year.
Chief executive Mike Chapman said that growers are under a lot of stress, trying to keep going without much of their usual workforce.
He said there are simple solutions which would hugely benefit the sector at next to no risk.
“Moving people from the Pacific down here – we can do that very easily; keeping them in their bubble, looking after them, making sure they stay healthy.
“And really it’s zero risk because they’re coming from Covid-free countries and we need the labour, we really do need the labour.”