When the Asia Pacific Healthcare Group (APHG) was asked to support a pilot scheme, which meant seasonal workers could return to New Zealand, our operations team swung into action.

It’s been an anxious time for New Zealand growers with COVID-19 posing a major labour-shortage challenge for the industry. It came as a relief when the government expanded quarantine free travel for eligible one-way travelers from some Pacific nations, starting this week.

The announcement comes off the back of a successful pilot scheme which allowed for vaccinated seasonal workers to self-isolate on vineyards and orchards, while undergoing COVID-19 surveillance testing. The testing used saliva testing on day zero and day five. Over the course of October, 440 Recognised Seasonal Workers (RSE’s) arrived in the country on flights from Samoa and Vanuatu, spreading out to all the major growing regions.

Golden Bay Fruit of Motueka were one of several horticulture businesses that took part in the scheme. Managing Director Heath Wilkins was thrilled with the roll-out of the pilot and welcomed last week’s announcement.

“It’s a huge relief that we’ll be able to welcome our team of talented RSE workers back for what is gearing up to be a bumper 2022 season.

“We’re proud to have been a part of a successful pilot scheme that has paved the way for targeted quarantine free travel.  Between the ease of saliva testing and our purpose-built accommodation, we were well placed to test, house and isolate workers, keeping our community safe and our business running.”

APHG Head of Strategic Business Development Trevor English said this work was a true demonstration of the groups ability to adapt and be flexible and cater to the needs of different groups who are using saliva testing

“We were delighted to deliver on this for both the employers and for the seasonal workers. Being able to make the testing process as easy as possible was our priority. That meant early consideration that there may not be straight-forward access to smartphones for these users.

“Unlike the thousands of kiwis who have undergone a self-collect saliva test using our mobile app, this required a fully manual process. I’m really proud of our team for going the extra mile in order to get the job done. Seeing the announcement that quarantine-free travel for these workers is now a reality, means the juice was worth the squeeze.”

To find out more about the COVID-19 Saliva Testing Programme, visit our website.

Golden Bay Fruit have welcomed the news that RSE workers can take a well-deserved break at home this summer knowing they can return to Aotearoa again in time for next season.