Tassie is coping with COVID, and could help others | OPINION

How Tasmania is coping with COVID and could help out others | OPINION

STUCK: With fewer international workers to pick and process crops, Tasmanian horticulture will be seeking more local labour. Photo: Shutterstock.

STUCK: With fewer international workers to pick and process crops, Tasmanian horticulture will be seeking more local labour. Photo: Shutterstock.


The island state will need to keep local labour in mind in order to help out its farmers.


I MUST admit I feel for North Island Australia as the COVID pandemic goes from strength to strength.

We on South Island ain't seen nothing.

We have a son and a daughter living in Victoria and we get regular updates on the lockdowns.

I say "island" to stress the obvious.

Being one means that we haven't got frontiers with other populations, so to protect ourselves we just have to keep a careful watch on the seaports and the airports, of which we have a very small number (just four airports with flights to North Island).

There are very few of us which also helps - a mere 528,201 in 2019.

We are also decentralised.

Hobart, the capital, only accounts for just more than 40 per cent of the population compared with, say, Perth the capital of WA, which accounts for more than 90pc.

Ulverstone is just down the road from our farm and has the fifth largest population, coming in at 14,429.

Size may help

I'VE told you this before but it's worth repeating.

Tasmania is about the same size as England (Wales, Scotland and Ireland are additions which make it The United Kingdom) but it only has the population which England had at the time of the Roman Conquest a thousand or so years ago.

Given all that, we're in a strong position to assist North Island.

I can do no better than quote in full a recent report by Claudia Williams in "The Advocate" newspaper" on September 8.

"Tasmania will quarantine an additional 1500 Pacific workers as part of the government's arrangement with Victoria," the article said.

"In return, the Victorian Government will assume responsibility for the quarantine of 350 returning Australians on Tasmania's behalf."


Tasmanian minister for primary industries and water Guy Barnett said both states would play to their strengths under the extension of the agreement, while ensuring fruit and vegetables are harvested.

"This agreement has worked successfully since January this year, benefitting both Tasmanian and Victorian agribusinesses and, importantly, we have been able to ensure workers for Tasmanian farms have also been prioritised," Mr Barnett said.

"Tasmania has a strong track record of providing hotel quarantine for international seasonal workers and to date we have safely quarantined over 2300 international seasonal workers, making a significant contribution to the national agricultural workforce which is facing critical shortages."

The ag minister said seasonal agricultural workers were essential to bolstering Tasmania's agricultural industry.

"This agreement will not impact the number of seasonal workers required for Tasmanian farms, with those workers continuing to be prioritised," he said.

"While the employment of local workers remains a key focus for the Tasmanian Government and industry, international seasonal workers continue to be vital to support the local workforce, especially over the peak harvest season."

As I said in a previous column, that key focus is a real challenge.

It does seem that not too many young folk are considering working in primary industries, though this might change as they experience life after school.

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