Orchard workers in Hawke's Bay. (Photo: RNZ Lynda Chanwai-Earle)

The Bulletin: Seasonal workforce to swell this summer

Good morning and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Seasonal workforce to swell this summer, government sets date to present post-Covid roadmap, and tens of thousands facing hospital delays.

The seasonal workforce is expected to be significantly larger next summer, with the announcement of a one-way bubble from several Pacific countries. The NZ Herald reports the corridor will open next month, and will allow workers to come in without a stay in managed isolation. Conditions will be imposed on employers who bring workers in, including paying the living wage, and providing suitable accommodation for the workers. The countries which we’ll be welcoming people from – Sāmoa, Tonga and Vanuatu – have not had any community transmission of Covid for ages, and so ironically the workers would probably have had the most chance of getting Covid if they had to spend time in MIQ on their journey.

Growers are thrilled at the news. A few weeks ago there was a piece on Farmers Weekly about how nervous they were about the upcoming season – “panic” was one word used – with the expectation it would continue to be extremely difficult to find enough labour. “It was a dreadful season for us, last season growers were stressed and distressed and were facing the uncertainty of what next season might look like,” said Apples and Pears CEO Alan Pollard. While undoubtedly true, that can be taken with a grain of salt, because one reason seasonal labour has traditionally been hard to find is that the pay hasn’t been good enough. But under this scheme, the living wage could effectively be a floor for the industry.

Among the public, there may also be a developing perception that the hard border is simply too hard. That’s one conclusion that can be drawn from the data point of a Newshub poll, which found 61% believed more exemptions should be created to allow split families to be reunited. It’s not necessarily a like for like comparison, but it is relevant.

And what about the people from the Pacific countries? The remittance economy is important to all three of them, and the pandemic has hurt that – though perhaps not to the degree that might have been expected, according to this report on the Dev Policy blog. A more recent report by the Samoa Observer concludes the same, but also reports the economy has recorded basically zero income from tourism for more than a year. So this move will undoubtedly help people in those countries make money. But as Politik (paywalled) notes, it is quite pointedly not an amnesty for overstayers, as some in those communities have asked for.


On August 12, the government will present their plan for how New Zealand gets out of Covid. Our political editor Justin Giovannetti reports it comes after months of work from a group led by Sir David Skegg, and will happen in the context of very little information to date from the government about what the post-pandemic landscape looks like. He picks out three key questions that will need to be answered, including what proportion of vaccination is needed to loosen restrictions, vaccinated travellers, and the future of MIQ.


Tens of thousands of people are facing delays for hospital treatment, particularly around services that were already under stress pre-pandemic. The NZ Herald’s (paywalled) Nicholas Jones reports the consequences of those delays could be significant – for example, a DHB has warned that ophthalmology service delays could result in people going blind. Doctor’s union ED Sarah Dalton said the findings reflect a long-standing lack of action on staffing shortages, and the poor state of hospital infrastructure.


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Electric vehicle registrations have soared since the introduction of new feebates, with July seeing almost four times as many registrations as June. Business Desk reports that is still just 6.5% of the vehicles registered over the month, but as a proportion it was also up. Dealers told the publication that demand for EVs right now is well in excess of what they’re able to supply.


This might seem minor, but it could be a really big story for the parts of the country where freedom camping isn’t looked upon fondly: Cherie Sivignon reports for Stuff about a “loophole” freedom campers can use to get around bylaw bans – simply say you’re just resting to avoid driver fatigue. One person fined in Motueka managed to use this defence successfully. It’ll make enforcing such bylaws on van-sleepers a nightmare because after all, isn’t all sleep in a van just a bid to avoid driver fatigue?


Thousands of people placed in motels by MSD have effectively been lost to the system after leaving that accommodation, reports Michelle Cooke for Radio NZ. About 4000 people were placed in motels when Covid hit, and the ministry doesn’t know where 42% of them went afterwards. The gap in the data was put down to the ministry and providers having to work flat out during the pandemic.


Got some feedback about The Bulletin, or anything in the news? Get in touch with me at thebulletin@thespinoff.co.nz

Right now on The Spinoff: Chris Schulz writes about car-yard sexism and why it’s time to leave it behind. Apulu Reece Autagavaia writes about the significance of the woven mat at the Dawn Raid apology ceremony. Claimants to the Mana Wāhine inquiry tell Liam Rātana how the Waitangi Tribunal can start to address the damage done to Māori women by colonisation. Hal Crawford writes about the rebirth of an old idea in digital media – micropayments for individual articles. And Sam Brooks interviews Robert Yang, a world-renowned queer video game developer who recently moved to NZ.


For a feature today, a celebration of a true servant of journalism. Peter Jackson – no, not that one – has retired after more than four decades as the editor of the Northland Age, based out of Kaitaia. Peter de Graaf at the Northern Advocate has written a wonderful feature about his life’s work, including a section at the end of tributes from the community. Here’s an excerpt about how he got the editorship in the first place:

”They advertised the editor’s job — I applied but didn’t get it because I wasn’t experienced enough, so they gave it to a guy from The Dominion. I was introduced to him, and then he said the most extraordinary thing: ‘I’m really looking forward to coming up here, I’ve been writing a novel for years, and finally I’ll have time to finish it’. Wilf’s face was a picture. The two of them went back into the manager’s office and shut the door. Then the new editor came out, got into his car, and was never seen again. Nothing was ever said.”

No attempt was made to recruit another editor, nor was Jackson given the job. Instead, he and Ted Bagshaw, the photographer and sports reporter, carried on editor-less.

Years later, after Wilf Wagener had died, his son Owen Wagener was on his way out of the office one night when he casually said: ”By the way, you can consider yourself the editor.”


In sport, the Warriors are facing an end to the season without their captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. This actually happened last week, but the Olympics were on so it got missed. But basically, Stuff reports Tuivasa-Sheck will be returning to NZ to be with his family and prepare for his switch to rugby, with the Warriors stuck in Australia for the rest of the competition. The Warriors actually had a great win over the weekend against the Tigers, but are still miles off the pace to qualify for the playoffs.


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