Federated Farmers wants migrant workers on Govt's COVID exemption 'A-list'

Auckland officials are emphasising the economic benefits of letting in America's Cup crews, but farmers feel they're being left off the 'A-list'. 

The Government has granted border exemptions to cup challengers American Magic and INEOS Team UK, each bringing a couple of hundred crew and staff into the country. 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says they'll face the same 14-day quarantine rules as New Zealand citizens at the border, to prevent one of them inadvertently bringing in COVID-19. 

The regatta is set to take place in March next year.

"If we want them to race in this America's Cup, to be fair to those crews they've got to be here to acclimatise and practise on our waters," Goff told Newshub. "And of course when they come here, those teams spend big money."

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford says they'll bring in about $100 million.

New Zealand is one of only a handful of countries in the world that appears to be free of the virus, which has killed more than 420,000 people around the world in the past few months. The pandemic is accelerating overseas, as it starts to spread in poorer, more populous countries like India. Wealthier countries trying to reopen their economies are also experiencing signs a second wave of the virus could hit. 

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development CEO Nick Hill says hosting the regatta will show the world New Zealand is open for business.

"It's going to help sectors that have been badly affected like hospitality, retail and accommodation - but also the marine sector, a very important part of Auckland's economy." 

But Federated Farmers is fuming, saying the Government's immigration exemption list is a who's-who allowing A-list celebs in but not farmers.

Immigration spokesperson Chris Lewis says skilled migrant workers need to be allowed back into the country urgently.

"Movie stars, America's Cup - but the ones who are hard working for export dollars and keeping the country going weren't there. It's a little bit disappointing... we're not in the A-list, are we?" 

Lewis says even if New Zealanders are redeployed to work on farms, skilled migrants will be needed to train the newcomers and need to be granted exemptions.

"We want awesome, hard-working Kiwis working on our farms, taking on entry-level jobs... With calving not far away, crops need to be put in by contractors and sheep need to be shorn. Nature doesn't wait for politicians - it just carries on." 

Hill says the America's Cup is the world's oldest trophy, and the international broadcasting rights are more valuable to New Zealand than tourism, which has all but ceased with the borders shut.

"The fact that it's going to be incredibly spectacular on the Hauraki Gulf and the Waitemata Harbour will make great television, and that in itself is worth an awful lot to Auckland and to New Zealand." 

Goff agrees it is an opportunity to broadcast New Zealand to the world.

"This place is a well-governed place and a good place for people to invest their money and... visit."