About 500 managed isolation and quarantine spaces every two weeks will be allocated to skilled and critical workers over the next 10 months, the Government has announced today.
Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said the move was intended to support the country’s economic recovery.
The 500 spaces would include room for about 300 RSE workers every month from June. The Government expects about 2400 of these workers to arrive by March next year, in addition to the 7300 already in the country.
It comes after this year’s fruit harvest was hampered by labour shortages, with Hawke's Bay growers telling 1 NEWS in March it meant fruit was rotting on trees.
Four hundred spaces would be set aside for international students arriving in June for the start of the second semester. The Government in January announced it would be giving 1000 international university students who met certain criteria a border exemption.
A further 240 spaces would be allocated for construction workers between June and October. Hipkins said these would include engineers, project managers and technical workers.
“This is great news for the construction sector and will help us deliver on our strong pipeline of critical infrastructure work that will accelerate our recovery,” he said.
“It gives certainty for planning projects with specialist workers from overseas, maintains construction jobs for Kiwis and will bring new knowledge to New Zealand for employers and employees.”
From July, there would also be space for 100 refugees every six weeks.
An additional 20,000 vouchers in MIQ would also be made available to New Zealanders wanting to return home in the next three months.
Hipkins said the trans-Tasman bubble had freed up more rooms.
“It has given us flexibility to expand our engagement with the rest of the world on a targeted basis and attract skills and people needed to drive our economic recovery, while carefully managing risks of bringing in Covid-19.
“We’re now at the stage in our Covid response where fewer New Zealanders are choosing to come home, which gives us the opportunity to focus MIQ more on bringing in skills to support our economic recovery.”
The move comes amid growing calls from hundreds of migrant families torn apart by border closures that the Government should be allocating some freed-up MIQ spots for them.
ACT said today’s move was “far too late and doesn’t go far enough”.
“The Trans-Tasman Bubble has been in place for three weeks and was being worked on for months leading up to its implementation,” leader David Seymour said.
“The Government should have had a plan ready to go. But like everything with this Government, it’s incapable of being proactive.”
Seymour said the attitude from the Government wasn’t acceptable, given many families were still separated and some construction projects had been delayed as a result of the border closure.