Manjimup's Newton Brothers apple orchard hosted a visit from Tonga’s Minister for Agriculture and Food, Lord Vaea, on Thursday as he tours the country visiting sites of the Federal Government’s Pacific Seasonal Worker’s scheme.
The scheme, which encourages residents of Pacific islands to undertake seasonal labouring work in Australia, will begin on July 1 after a successful three year pilot program.
Lord Vaea said that during the threeyear period, the scheme had seen close to $75 million in ploughed back into Tonga’s economy and he was happy to see the scheme had now taken off in WA.
‘‘This is the first group to have been employed in WA and will hopefully see a lot more work for the future,’’ Lord Vaea said.
‘‘The scheme has workers in the Murray Darling Basin and in the town of Emerald in Queensland.
"We are meeting with Australian immigration and labour officials with a view to maintaining equality and the product that keeps the industry happy throughout the scheme.’’
Jackie Jarvis, the WA State manager for MADEC, the non-profit group arranging the employment of the workers, said the scheme benefited both Australia and Tonga.
‘‘They return their money to Tonga after their stint, but they will provide a continual workforce each year for the region’s horticulture,’’ Ms Jarvis said.
Newton Brothers’ has been employing a group of 20 Tongan workers for the past six months and communications officer Lucinda Giblett said it was a great opportunity.
‘‘The work ethic and general demeanour of the workers has just been fantastic over the last few months,’’ Ms Giblett said.
‘‘I would really encourage any local farmer to take advantage of this scheme regardless of the size of your operation.’’