Grantham Farm Worker's Lodge
Grantham Farm Worker's Lodge

160 workers fly in to help ‘desperate’ industry

Overseas workers arriving from the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu will touch down in Brisbane tonight and quarantine in Grantham to provide “desperate” help to the agriculture industry struggling with severe labour shortages.

A representative from the Grantham Farmworkers Lodge confirmed 160 overseas seasonal workers were expected to arrive at the Grantham Farmworkers Lodge on Friday night.

FIP Group CEO Brad Seagrott also confirmed the workers would stay and work in Queensland once the 14-day quarantine was complete.

“We are supporting the agricultural industry that are short on labour,” he said.

“A large percentage of them are (staying in the Lockyer) and they will all stay in Queensland, but our businesses is one of two that have people coming in on the plane.”

The Gatton Star understands the Grantham Farmworkers Lodge will be leased to organisations FIP Group and Powerpack, who provide staffing and resources.

The new arrivals from low-risk areas in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands will quarantine for 14 days, and if any present symptoms they will be taken to one of the Brisbane metro hospitals.

No workers that become sick will be taken to local Lockyer hospitals.

With coronavirus halting international travel and creating a significant labour shortage, growers in the Lockyer Valley alone needs 1300 harvest workers to pick this season’s winter crops.

The lodge was nominated as a quarantine hub for seasonal workers in December.

Lockyer Valley Growers Association president Michael Sippel. PHOTO: Ali Kuchel
Lockyer Valley Growers Association president Michael Sippel. PHOTO: Ali Kuchel

Lockyer Valley Growers Association president Michael Sippel was unaware of the workers arrival, but said the numbers would be a huge help to farmers in the region.

“At the moment, we are very short staffed, we have barely enough (workers) to fill vacancies and we haven’t even arrived at the peak of harvest,” Mr Sippel said.

“We are planting and that requires a significant number of workers, let alone planting and harvesting – you require double the workload.

“We need a significant input of labour into the district.”

Member for Lockyer Jim McDonald. Picture: Dominic Elsome
Member for Lockyer Jim McDonald. Picture: Dominic Elsome

Lockyer MP Jim McDonald pushed for the project after seeing first hand the struggles local farmer had in recruiting workers.

“The farmers have been advertising for workers here, but Australian’s aren’t even lasting a day, some are lasting just hours,” he said.

“I’d be happy if the Australians wanted to work on the farms, but they don’t.”

Mr McDonald said there was a seven-page safety document that outlined procedures and protocols to ensure the highest health standards.

“They have to employ somebody to wipe down every handle in the place every half-hour,” he said.

Residents have voiced their frustration about the lack of consultation and risk of the virus spreading to the Lockyer Valley community, but Mr McDonald said local disaster, emergency services and public health agencies were consulted.

He was absolutely confident there was no risk to the Lockyer Valley.

“While we’ve demanded the highest standards of control to keep our community safe, I’m confident the seven-pages of controls they have will keep our community safe,” Mr McDonald said.

A Grantham resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were disappointed the government had “snuck them in”.

“I live in Grantham and can see the farm workers cottage from my house, I had no idea they were coming until I saw the post on Facebook,” she said.

“What’s going to be stopping the workers from going out of their rooms, talking to each other and potentially sharing the virus around.

“Our health services here don’t have that sort of capacity to handle an outbreak.”

Originally published as 160 workers fly in to help ‘desperate’ industry