‘Community isn’t dumb’: Mayor reacts to Grantham COVID site
A request from Lockyer Valley mayor Tanya Milligan to inform and consult residents before the arrival and quarantine of 160 international workers in Grantham was ignored by the Queensland government's Department of Agriculture, she has claimed.
Cr Milligan has slammed the non-existent community consultation as "disappointing" and said council's request to the agriculture department for the Grantham community to be informed ahead of the seasonal workers' arrival on Friday, May 7.
Cr Milligan said the Lockyer Valley Regional Council was contacted via the local disaster management group to establish their opinion on the workers from Vanuatu and Pacific Islands quarantining at a hub in Grantham.
The council asked for pre-messaging and consulting with the Grantham community prior to the overseas workers' arrival.
"But to my knowledge, I don't think they did any of it. That's very disappointing they did not consult or speak with the community," Cr Milligan said.
Cr Milligan confirmed the council did not have any say in the project going ahead.
"The decision isn't ours. The decision was made for us," she said.
Quarantining 160 overseas seasonal workers at the Grantham Farmworkers Lodge is a department of agriculture and fisheries initiative aimed at curbing severe labour shortages.
More than 1600 seasonal workers have already flown into the country as part of the Pacific Labour Scheme/Seasonal Worker Program, with authorities claiming the risk of spreading covid is extremely low.
The Solomon Islands, where a large proportion of the workers are arriving from, has had 20 reported coronavirus cases and zero deaths since the global outbreak began.
In conversations with farmers, Cr Milligan said one local farmer told her they were "skating on thin ice" due to the labour shortages.
"Agriculture and seasonal workers - that's who we are as a region - and it's unfortunate farmers haven't been able to attract workers, and coronavirus has been a huge contributor to that," she said.
"If you've got no one to pick and harvest our crops they will just rot in the field, right down to then what will people be paying for it in the supermarkets."
Cr Milligan said it was disappointing no consultation was provided to the community, especially when transparency and consultation is a key focus for the council.
"The community is not silly. When you don't give people information of course they make it up themselves," she said.
When asked if she was worried about a coronavirus outbreak in the Lockyer Valley, Cr Milligan said there were exhaustive rules and regulations in place to ensure it did not happen.
"All their quarantine management has been approved by the chief health officer," she said.
"From what I know all the checks are in place and the likes of DAF and any other agency involved they are ensuring our community is safe.
"Feedback I've received the farmers have really welcomed it, it's certainly positive for them because they've been wanting change to get more people in their farms."
The Department of Agriculture has been contacted for comment.
Originally published as 'Community isn't dumb': Mayor reacts to Grantham quarantine site