NSW Health must approve cross-border health plan now
29 July 2020
The NSW Health Department is creating unnecessary stress by not approving a COVID-19 prevention plan that would safely enable seasonal workers residing in Victoria to continue harvesting fruit in NSW.
Citrus Australia CEO Nathan Hancock said the uncertainty was causing significant financial and mental health issues and called on NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard to intervene.
“NSW Health has a comprehensive plan in front of them prepared by Citrus Australia and NSW DPI that would enable visa holders to return to work with minimal risk to the community,” Mr Hancock said.
The plan presented to NSW Health at its request is based on comprehensive work conducted by industry to protect communities, growers and staff from COVID-19.
“Our priority from the onset of the pandemic has always been to help our growers prepare the safest working environment possible.
“The plan presented to NSW Health is based on this. Unfortunately, it seems ignorance of cross-border communities and the agriculture industry is delaying it.
“I assure NSW Health, these workers are not trying to rort the system, if that’s how they are being perceived. They simply want to resume their work, which contributes millions of dollars to regional NSW communities.
“We ask NSW Health to work with us and NSW DPI in fixing this mess. Don’t look for problems, look for solutions.”
The NSW Government’s decision to ban foreign seasonal workers residing in Victoria from working on NSW farms is costing these growers $1.7 million a day and there has been no indication as to when the issue will be resolved.
The workers, who have been residing in Mildura and working on these farms since May, all while abiding by COVID-19 prevention plans in their place of residence and workplace, have been cut off from employment and are not eligible for any Government assistance.
“This situation has dragged on for 8 days with no end in sight,” Mr Hancock said.
“Eight days may not seem like a long time to Government or the bureaucracy, but it is for those workers who have had their livelihoods cut off without any thought, and for growers looking at their hard-earned profits go unpicked.”
For further information, contact Stephen Cooke, Industry Engagement Manager, Citrus Australia, on 0427 124 437 or firstname.lastname@example.org