16 Jun 2020

Government allowed 26 Rocket Lab employees into New Zealand

5:49 pm on 16 June 2020

The government says it allowed 26 overseas workers into the country to help launch rockets.

This June 16, 2018 courtesy of Rocket Lab shows the launch site for an Electron rocket at Rocket Lab in Mahia, New Zealand.

A file image showing the launch site for an Electron rocket at Rocket Lab in Mahia, New Zealand. Photo: Kieran Fanning / Rocket Lab / AFP

The exemption for Rocket Lab, to support three launches, falls in the same category that allowed a film crew working on an Avatar sequel to enter New Zealand.

The first mission successfully took place last week.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said accommodation and food costs during managed isolation were met by Rocket Lab and costs of security and health workers were paid by the government.

Exemptions for workers detailed

The government last week expanded criteria around its exemptions for employers who needed to bring in, or bring back, workers.

For contracts of less than six months, the roles must be time critical, requiring unique experience and technical or specialist skills. Jobs on a major infrastructure project of $100m or more or at an event of national or regional importance were also included.

For long-term workers, they had to earn at least $106,000 - twice the median wage.

"We will also continue to review the criteria we have proposed in this paper on an ongoing basis, to ensure that our border settings are not excluding high-value workers needed to support New Zealand's economic and social recovery, or including workers that do not meet the intended high bar," a Cabinet paper said.

"As part of this review, we will also consider how border exceptions could apply to high-value investors and our trade obligations related to the entry of business people into New Zealand."

Other exceptions for rural workers are also being discussed.

The government is also looking at how it can increase the supply of managed isolation facilities and charge for stays.

A Cabinet paper last week said: "At present, the accommodation supply is largely dictated by the current Ministry of Health requirements for a Managed Isolation or Quarantine Facility, and the support required to manage them.

"Further growth in isolation capacity may also be possible in the short-term by re-opening facilities in Christchurch and/or by contracting with more hotels and expanding the wraparound support services in Auckland, but this will come at a cost.

"The wrap-around support services are provided by government agencies (for example, the New Zealand Defence Force, Aviation Security, Customs) and there is currently no mechanism for these to be charged back to foreign nationals.

"It is difficult to predict how many New Zealanders will return to New Zealand, but the number of arrivals has begun to increase and forecasts indicate that this will continue to increase, putting significant pressure on accommodation supply. Christchurch is currently in the process of being reactivated to support this forecast increase."

Once a system can record details and collect fees, people will be charged for applying for approval to cross the border.

Cabinet agreed to charge for the expression of interest stage of processing an exception request, $250 to $440 for employers who request exceptions for essential workers and $30 to $50 for individuals.

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