Seasonal workers to quarantine ‘on farm’ under new plan

 

INTERNATIONAL seasonal workers will be allowed to undertake quarantine on farm in the Northern Territory under a new process approved by the chief health officer, in a boon for growers that have been crying out for staff.

Health Minister Natasha Fyles' office confirmed workers hired as part of the Commonwealth's Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Worker Programme by an approved employer can get an exemption from the chief health officer to undertake 14 days of mandatory quarantine "on farm".

It will be done on a case-by-case basis under strict rules that include an online COVID-19 management plan with employers to explain why it is "critical" for them to employ international workers.

Employers must also explain how they plan to minimise coronavirus transmission risks to the community or other workers.

Staff can only leave their approved quarantine arrangements to work.

 

Ni-Vanuatuans Annie Kintor, Charline Lolting and Bill Frazer Alling were part of the program in 2020 that brought seasonal workers in for NT’s mango season. Picture: Che Chorley
Ni-Vanuatuans Annie Kintor, Charline Lolting and Bill Frazer Alling were part of the program in 2020 that brought seasonal workers in for NT’s mango season. Picture: Che Chorley

 

The Territory's peak growers association plans to bring in 150 seasonal workers over the next six to 10 weeks, but expects the first cohorts will undertake quarantine at the Howard Springs facility as it works through logistics of the on farm approach.

"It will take some time, to temper everyone's enthusiasm that they want to hire seasonal workers tomorrow," NT Farmers chief executive Paul Burke said.

Mr Burke said the organisation had been working with all levels of government "in earnest" since December to make on farm quarantine happen.

 

Paul Burke from NT Farmers. Picture: Che Chorley
Paul Burke from NT Farmers. Picture: Che Chorley

 

He said it's likely seasonal workers will at first come from Timor-Leste as there are still commercial flights running between Dili and Darwin, easing the pressure on NT Farmers to hire and fill a 170-seat charter flight.

Seasonal workers will be needed in the Territory in the next few months for the melon season.

The Northern Territory is the second jurisdiction behind Queensland to allow workers to quarantine on farm.

In the Sunshine State the scheme has been credited with saving farmers millions of dollars, as the exercise of flying seasonal workers over, as NT Farmers did in September with two plane fulls of ni-Vanuatuans for the mango season, can be incredibly expensive.

It cost NT Farmers $100,000 to charter the flight alone and a further $2500 quarantine fee per person.

Federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud has been contacted for comment.

Originally published as Seasonal workers to quarantine 'on farm' in the NT under new plan



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