New Zealand companies that have been engaged in business activities with Fiji have called upon the New Zealand Government to urgently review its stance that travel between New Zealand and its Pacific neighbours will not be considered until after the Trans-Tasman bubble is in place.
At its monthly executive Council meeting on 11 June, the New Zealand Fiji Business Council said it was difficult to understand the rationale of the New Zealand Government in adopting this position given Fiji and other Pacific Island nations such as Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue are ahead of Australia in the fight against Covid-19.
The Council has more than 120 member companies including some New Zealand’s leading businesses.
The Council said Fiji reported only 18 cases of Covid-19, none of which resulted in deaths and all of which are reported to have recovered. Fiji’s last reported Covid-19 case was on 20 April. In the case of Samoa, Cook Island, Tonga and Niue, no Covid-19 cases have been reported at all.
New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tonga and Niue are all at the same level of Covid-19 prevention or elimination. Australia, on the other hand, continues to report new cases on an almost daily basis (Nine cases were reported in the last 24 hours), with the added complexity of the different states having varying quarantine and social distancing requirements.
The New Zealand Fiji business Council, established more than 30 years ago in 1987 to maintain strong links between businesses in New Zealand and Fiji, has received strong feedback from its members concerning the real difficulties they are experiencing from the inability to travel between the two countries.
Some examples raised with the Council include Fiji based employees stranded in New Zealand, inability to redeploy New Zealand personnel to Fiji, inability to travel to Fiji to prepare and complete tenders for construction projects, and the inability to deploy skilled personnel to Fiji to assist with the installation, commissioning and maintenance of critical machinery and equipment.
Council President Chandar Sen said, “It is absolutely critical that the tourism industry resumes without delay in Fiji. Opening up the borders between the two countries would not only enable many New Zealanders to take longer holidays, but will provide the much needed kick-start to the severely challenged Fijian economy which is having the obvious flow-on effects not only on the people of Fiji but also those New Zealanders currently doing business in Fiji.”
Tourism, agriculture and manufacturing are significant contributors to Fiji’s GDP along with developing sectors such as food and beverage sector and the BPO/outsourcing sector. Fiji received nearly 900,000 tourists to their shores in 2019, with over 200,000 of these from New Zealand, contributing over $500 million of the overall $2 billion the country earned from tourism.
While goods continue to flow between the two countries services contracts remain affected. Large New Zealand construction companies are unable to complete specialist work in Fiji that can’t be undertaken by local contractors. Fijian companies also rely on New Zealand expats in key positions such as training local staff and while many returned home during Covid-19, most are eager to return and assist in recovering Fiji’s economy.
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