‘Still welcome’: President says backpackers remain necessity
BUSINESSES are wary of scaring off any future backpackers on the Granite Belt, suggesting they remain welcome.
With Stanthorpe so reliant on itinerant workers, Granite Belt Growers Association president Angus Ferrier said it’s important not to send the wrong message as the impacts of COVID-19 ramp up.
“People seem to be saying the next couple of months is a really critical phase in all of this,” Mr Ferrier said.
“We still have some major employers with large workforces either in paddocks or packing sheds and they still have everything to play for this season.
“The risk of the coronavirus taking hold within a business or within a wider seasonal workforce is still very present.
“We are absolutely not advocating to stop backpackers moving around the state. We want to emphasise the important role they play in the horticulture sector in harvesting produce,” he said.
Mr Ferrier encouraged backpackers to have a ‘common sense approach’ before making their way to the Granite Belt.
“We want them to have an eye on their job prospects,’ he said.
“We don’t want them just rocking up and filling the main street up.
“We want them to come here for a reason.
“That can be Aussies too. This is not a backpacker versus Australian workers thing.”
Mr Ferrier encouraged hopeful workers to go through the right channels, such as jobseeker agencies.
“We just want to limit the number of unrequired people coming into town.
“But we don’t want to give the impressions backpackers are not welcome.
“Come next August we’ll be ready to roll again.
“We’ve had enough rain in parts of the district to fire up pretty well next Spring,” he said.
Chair of the Queensland Horticulture Council, Joe Moro, echoed Mr Ferrier’s message.
“We have had reports of growers being overwhelmed by the number of travellers appearing on their front step looking for work,” Mr Moro said.
“In many cases these growers already have a full complement of staff and so are having to turn everyone away.
“This has reportedly led to increased numbers of travellers milling around regional towns.
“This is exactly what we need to avoid.”
Growcom, the peak body for horticulture in Queensland, has created a survey for employers across Queensland to help keep on top of employment opportunities.
The survey, Horticulture Labour Forecast – April to September 2020 can be found here: https://bit.ly/3bADGGD