Albany Advertiser

Travel bubble with NZ expected to encourage ag workers to WA

- CALLY DUPE

A long-awaited travel bubble allowing agricultur­al workers to come into WA from over the ditch will give farmers more staffing options at spring shearing and harvest.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden last week announced quarantine­free travel between New Zealand and Australia would start on April 19.

Both nations have contained COVID-19 outbreaks and kept infection rates near zero in recent months.

The move has opened the floodgates for NZ shearers and farm labourers — including tractor and header drivers — to enter WA for the first time in a year.

WA Shearing Industry Associatio­n president Darren Spencer welcomed the move but said the benefit would not be felt until shearing ramped up again in July.

He said calls for a circuit breaker to the shearing labour shortage crisis in the form of a travel bubble with New Zealand had fallen on deaf ears for more than six months.

The focus instead had been on allowing vetted seasonal workers from the Pacific Islands into Australia.

“The main benefit is that it gives contractor­s more chance to be on time and not struggle with only two or three shearers in a four-stand shed,” Mr Spencer said.

“It gives us more staff to call on and share staff between contractor­s.”

Mr Spencer said WA’s summer and autumn shearing was nearly finished, meaning the real impact of the bubble would not be felt until at least July.

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