Gundagai is the latest town to welcome the arrival of overseas skilled agricultural workers to help local farmers overcome the COVID-induced labour shortage, Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke announced.

Ms Cooke said Gundagai and Junee were two of 15 regions to share in the employment of an additional 442 overseas workers in the horticulture and meat processing sectors last month.

“Since the start of the pandemic, the NSW Government has aided the arrival of almost 2,000 overseas agricultural workers right across the state. Gundagai is now on the list of places to have welcomed them,” Ms Cooke said.

“International border closures have created a whole new range of challenges for our agricultural industry, but by approving the arrival of these workers, we ensure our farmers can continue to grow the food and fibre we all rely on.

“Junee was one of the first towns to benefit from this program and I am delighted more foreign workers are coming into our region to help overcome the COVID-induced labour shortage.

“It is crucial that our farms, orchards and meat processing facilities across the region have the workforce they need so production and the supply chain are not inhibited.

“We have also ensured these arriving workers fall outside the international arrivals cap so as not to impact on returning Australians.”

Ms Cooke said while the workers had come from countries with low-to-no rates of COVID-19, they were still required to undergo two weeks of hotel isolation, but the NSW Government had subsidised half the quarantine costs.

“The health and safety of our communities remains priority number one, especially for our bush communities,” Ms Cooke said.

“But we recognise that quarantining workers for two weeks is a significant barrier for our farming businesses, which is why we subsidise 50 per cent of those costs.

“This reduces the burden on our local agribusinesses from $3,000 per person, to $1500.”

The arrival of the foreign workers has been approved under the Pacific Labour Scheme (PLS) and Seasonal Workers Program (SWP).