Harvest contractors will be able to use the 11 freight-friendly testing sites designed to keep freight moving and drivers COVID-safe under the latest measure the NSW Nationals in the state government are rolling out to support the industry through a bumper harvest.
Nationals Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole said allowing harvest contractors to get tested at the pop-up sites alongside truckies and other freight workers would help harvest crews move safely across NSW and interstate, despite the challenges of COVID-19.
“These testing sites have proven invaluable in helping the freight industry meet the challenges of the pandemic, with more than 100,000 tests carried out across all our testing sites since we opened the first one more than 12 months ago, and a 1,679 per cent increase in testing since the beginning of June alone. Currently, we are seeing an average of 1600 tests performed each day,” Mr Toole said.
“We’re now expanding access to allow harvest contractors and their pilot vehicle crews to get tested at these 11 sites located along key freight routes. This will help them meet border entry COVID-19 testing requirements of neighbouring states as they take off what is shaping up to be a record crop.
“This will also be the first harvest that all road train operators can access the entire length of the Newell Highway, unlocking big efficiency gains for the movement of freight from border to border.”
Mr Toole said it was just one of the ways the NSW Nationals in the state government are making it easier to move grain more efficiently.
“Producers and freight operators will also benefit from the Grain Harvest Management Scheme, which was introduced as a drought recovery initiative and allows for an additional five per cent weight on loads to boost efficiencies right across the state.
“This is on top of the six-month extension of the NSW Government’s Farm Gate Access Network pilot, bolstering end-to-end transport access from the farm gate to market in six pilot local government areas across the State, cutting red-tape for farmers and transport operators by reducing the need for access permits.”
Nationals Minister for Agriculture Adam Marshall said the NSW Government was implementing more help for farmers to source the workforce they need for another bumper harvest.
“Primary producers are still getting back on their feet following the worst drought in our history, and border closures have made that recovery even harder,” Mr Marshall said.
“The freer movement of harvest contractors is an important step in helping industry overcome the COVID-exacerbated workforce shortage, and this will ensure grain travels from the receiver sites to the market as safely and efficiently as possible.
“Higher Productivity Vehicle access to priority grain sites including in Parkes, Lockhart and Calleen will also be made available again through the drought recovery permits and temporary mapped access arrangements.
“This measure will complement our existing and incoming support steps, including subsidised hotel quarantine, the arrival of more than 2,000 foreign workers, as well as our upcoming East Coast Task Force discussions.”
NSW Farmers president James Jackson welcomed the announcement and said allowing harvest contractors to use the freight-friendly testing sites would be a big help during harvest.
“Our members have been telling us the border restrictions and labour shortage are big concerns, and I want to thank the NSW Government for listening to NSW Farmers on this issue,” Mr Jackson said.
“When you’ve had great growing conditions like these you really need to pull out all the stops to get those crops off, and it’s good to see our state government stepping up.
“It’s really important everyone does their part – getting vaccinated, getting tested, and getting on with business.”
For further information, go to nswroads.work/farmersinfo