The Government’s refusal to allow entry of vessels into Nelson despite them posing no risk of introducing Covid-19 is putting millions of dollars of work and dozens of jobs at risk, MP for Nelson Nick Smith says.
“Nelson has a vibrant marine engineering industry that employs hundreds of people but this will be lost if the Government continues its impractical and unnecessary ban on vessels coming to port.”
Dr Smith cited the example of the Captain Vincent Gann, an 1800 tonne tuna fishing vessel from American Samoa that needs urgent repairs, but has been refused entry by Customs and New Zealand Immigration despite repeated requests and appeals to the Minister. The vessel was previously upgraded in Nelson in 2019 for $6.5 million and requires work to the value of $600,000.
“The Government’s refusal to allow entry of this vessel makes no sense. It has been at sea for more than 14 days of the quarantine period and its last port of call has had no cases of Covid-19. The crew are quite prepared to be Covid-19 tested and quarantined in New Zealand or confined on the ship,” Dr Smith says.
“It adds insult to injury that Government officials have advised the vessel to go to Hawaii for repairs without any regard for the loss of jobs and income to Nelson. It is wrong that exemptions for entry are being granted for the film industry for Avatar but not for blue collar jobs in the marine industry.
“The affected company AIMEX and I have tried relentlessly to resolve the issue over the last fortnight with Customs, Immigration and MBIE officials. I have also written to Cabinet Ministers. We have gone public with our concerns as the work will be lost elsewhere if not resolved this week.
“Nelson has suffered a body blow with the loss of aviation engineering jobs at our airport. The last thing we need is also losing marine engineering jobs at the Port.
“Blanket bans were appropriate two months ago during the emergency phase of the global Covid-19 pandemic. We now need a more flexible approach that assesses risk on a case by case basis that is focused on saving jobs,” Dr Smith says.