Balonne Shire Mayor Samantha O'Toole has welcomed news that the Department of Agriculture has approved on-farm quarantine arrangements at St George for 34 seasonal workers from Tonga.
The announcement, a first for remote regional areas of Queensland, was made at a crucial time, with the harvest of significantly sized onion and garlic crops imminent.
DAF general manager Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Workers Programme Peter Donaghy said the workers would provide much needed relief and support for growers.
"This is the first time a cohort of seasonal workers has been approved to work in the St George area as the department works to support the agriculture industry," he said.
Cr O'Toole said it was wonderful news for producers in the area.
"Balonne Shire Council has been working with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries to try to facilitate this arrangement, and we're so pleased that the Queensland government and DAF have been able to find a commonsense solution to a critical worker shortage for horticulture farms in our shire.
"It's a very welcome outcome."
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Mr Donaghy said getting the on-farm quarantine arrangements for the workers approved was a tribute to the hard work of many people across several organisations.
"Providing the workers required by the agriculture sector while simultaneously keeping the community safe is particularly challenging, especially in remote areas of Queensland," he said.
He credited Queensland Health, the Darling Downs Public Health Unit, the South West Hospital and Health Services, the federal government, and the approved employer Australian National Pickers Pty Ltd, as well as the council and DAF with working collaboratively to overcome a number of issues.
"As maintaining public health is a priority, stringent conditions and a strict compliance regime are in place to protect the community," he said.
"Being able to successfully and safely accommodate seasonal workers in remote areas of Queensland is of great importance as we unite and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Learnings from this process will pay further dividends when assessing applications for seasonal workers in other remote parts of Queensland."
The 34 seasonal workers were arriving as part of the Pacific Labour Scheme and Seasonal Workers Program.
Queensland has so far brought in 3680 PLS-SWP workers from Pacific Island nations with the lowest risk of COVID-19 transmission to work in the state's agricultural businesses, with 2294 of those workers having successfully completed on-farm quarantining.
"The department has been at the forefront of supporting the agriculture industry since the start of the pandemic to ensure growers can identify seasonal workforce solutions while keeping Queensland communities safe from COVID-19," Mr Donaghy said.
"The department has further supported the agriculture industry through a range of initiatives including the PickQld initiative, and the Queensland Agricultural Workforce Network Local Solutions initiative."
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The story St George seasonal worker quarantine approval welcomed first appeared on Queensland Country Life.