WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand will open up one-way quarantine-free travel for seasonal workers from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu to address labour shortages in the horticulture industry, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.
The quarantine-free arrangement is expected to start from September, Ardern said at a news conference. It will only be available to workers who qualify under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which allows the horticulture sector to recruit labour from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.
The scheme was suspended after the country shut its borders last year due to COVID-19.
"COVID has closed borders and New Zealand like many others experienced workforce shortages," Ardern said.
"We know our agriculture sector is experiencing challenges," she said.
Ardern is expected to reveal more details next week about how the country will gradually reopen its borders.
New Zealand has successfully contained the spread of coronavirus within its borders and has reported no community cases since February.
The Pacific island nation has reported about 2,500 confirmed coronavirus cases and 26 related deaths.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Edmund Klamann)