A number of meat industry workers from the Pacific are stuck in Balclutha in South Otago, dependent on food packages from the local Pacific community.
The workers are in New Zealand on temporary visas working in the meat industry, but aren't part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which means they are ineligible for quarantine free travel between New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.
But because Covid-19 has halted most international travel to and from the Pacific, some workers are unable to return home now that their seasonal jobs are finished. It also means they have been left without much income.
The Pacific Trust Otago is supporting the workers and their families. It is the only community service provider in the Otago region, so local and stranded families say their help during these stressful times have been very helpful.
The Trust has given food packages every week to more than 30 Pacific families in Balclutha.
“There was a waiting period for MSD assistance of about 10-12 weeks. So, we were able to provide food grants and food vouchers for the families. Some would drive an hour to Dunedin to get these vouchers,” says PTO general manager Lloyd Maole.
He says the number of Pacific people in the area is increasing.
“The Pacific community in the South Island continues to grow as seasonal work opportunities increase”.
Lloyd says for some of these stranded workers, the government has put in place pathways to permanent residency to allow them to stay in New Zealand.
Nicola Hogg is the General Manager for Border and Visa Operations at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
“The government recently announced a new one-off 2021 Resident Visa for some settled, skilled or scarce migrants in New Zealand. Some meat processing roles are included in the list of ‘scarce’ occupations.
“This means that workers who were employed in a role on the scarce lists on 29 September 2021 are eligible to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa, as long as they are still in that role on the date they apply."
Hogg says individuals must be in New Zealand to be able to apply for the 2021 Resident Visa.