UNABLE to attract unemployed South Australians to fill critical worker shortages in agriculture, the state government has set up a new Riverland quarantine facility to house more than 1000 foreign workers arriving in the state over the coming months.
The facility at Paringa will cater specifically for workers arriving under the Commonwealth Seasonal Worker Program and Pacific Labour Scheme, with new arrivals expected every 14 days over the next three months.
The $7-million program will be jointly funded by the state government and industry.
Primary Industries and Regional Development Minister David Basham said the state government had worked closely with SA Health and SAPOL to ensure the facility meets strict safety standards.
"With citrus season fast approaching, it is critical we deliver a safe solution to fill our seasonal worker shortages to ensure our state's crops are harvested," he said.
"We know that many Pacific nations have seen low case numbers of COVID-19, but protecting the wider community from any risk has been at the forefront of our planning.
"We have been working closely with SA Health, SA Police, industry and a number of key businesses to ensure the safety of the Paringa facility.
"We are expecting around 200 workers to arrive in SA shortly, with our program able to cater for up to 1000 more over the coming months.
"I am pleased that through dedication and hard work we have been able to map out a safe pathway forward to bring in seasonal workers.
...Foreign workers are now a critical need.
"The state government has made a significant push to encourage unemployed locals to take up fruit picking this year, but unfortunately not enough people have rallied to the call and foreign workers are now a critical need."
The seasonal workers will be transported directly to the Paringa Resort near Renmark, where they will complete 14 days quarantine before being able to undertake vital work.
Health and Wellbeing Minister Stephen Wade said careful planning had occurred across a range of agencies in order to ensure this program was safely managed, with the workers to undergo COVID-19 testing on arrival, as well as on day five and 12.
"The Department of Primary Industries and Regions, supported by SA Health and SA Police will oversee the program, which will involve creating a secure, regional hub to cohort seasonal workers in COVID-safe accommodation," he said.
"This is a different process to the Medi-Hotel program and focuses on seasonal workers who can quarantine together within secure units, with access to outdoor space and self-catering facilities to ensure minimum contact with dedicated quarantine workers.
"Reassuringly although more than 2600 Pacific Island workers have come into Australia since the outbreak of COVID-19, none of those individuals has tested positive for the virus."
If any individual tests positive for COVID-19 they will be transferred to the dedicated quarantine facility in Adelaide and managed according to the appropriate guidelines set out by SA Health.
- Start the day with all the big news in agriculture. Sign up here to receive our daily Stock Journal newsletter.