WESTERN Australians are being encouraged to 'Work and Wander out Yonder' as part of the State government's $3 million investment to help attract workers to seasonal agricultural jobs across the regions.
The Primary Industries Workers Regional Travel and Accommodation Support Scheme will assist agriculture, fisheries and food processing businesses in regional areas experiencing labour shortages as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under the scheme, eligible workers who move to the regions will be able to claim up to $40 a night in accommodation rebates for up to 12 weeks, up to a maximum total rebate of $3360.
A travel allowance will also be made available to those relocating more than 100 kilometres from their usual place of residence.
Workers will be able to claim $150 for travel to the Peel, South West, Great Southern, Wheatbelt, Mid West or Goldfields-Esperance regions, $350 for travel to the Gascoyne or Pilbara, and $500 for travel to the Kimberley for agricultural work.
Premier Mark McGowan said the agriculture, food and fisheries sectors play a vital role in WA's economy, food security and regional communities.
"COVID-19 travel restrictions have seen backpacker numbers in WA drop to less than half the usual number, leading to labour challenges across a range of occupations but also creating a unique opportunity for young people in WA," Mr McGowan said.
"We are calling on young West Aussies to take this opportunity to get the 'backpacker holiday experience' at home -broadening horizons, getting to know your regions and all they have to offer.
"I've also requested the Federal government to adjust their policy settings, to ensure Western Australians who take up seasonal work in regional WA are not penalised financially."
However, The Nationals WA believe the government's incentives to lure metropolitan workers to regional WA were too little, too late to help the agricultural sector that is reeling from the impacts of COVID-19 restrictions.
Agriculture spokesperson Colin de Grussa said the incentives won't help businesses that need specialist interstate and overseas workers and need them fast.
"Many WA farmers need workers within weeks but they won't be able to run headers or shear sheep because they can't get skilled labour across the border," Mr de Grussa said.
"The Nationals strongly support the hard border as a means to keep COVID-19 out of the State, but exemptions were always part of the process to ensure businesses - and the economy - kept ticking over.
"The McGowan government needs to take a consistent approach across sectors when dealing with worker shortages - and the agricultural sector is running a distant second at the moment."
The State government is continuing to advocate for the Commonwealth to do more to support the sector and incentivise the uptake of horticulture and agriculture opportunities.
It has also partnered with recruitment services Seek and Studium to match employers and job seekers through the campaign website.
Regional Development and Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan said in a typical year, an additional 7000 seasonal jobs were required over spring and summer in agriculture alone for harvesting, packing and processing work
"We know it is a challenge to attract local people to these roles, so we are providing a financial incentive for a new cohort who will want to give it a try - and potentially have the adventure of a lifetime," Ms MacTiernan said.
"It would be great if the Federal government could come on board and offer some flexibility around JobSeeker or other incentives for local workers."
The Nationals WA leader Mia Davies said the government had failed to grasp the scale of the issue farmers and growers face to secure a workforce.
"Industry and The Nationals WA have been raising this with government since March to little or no avail," Ms Davies said.
"The delayed response demonstrates once again the lack of interest and understanding this government has of agriculture, horticulture and fisheries.
The rebate scheme will take effect from September 21 with more information on how to submit a claim available at dpird.wa.gov.au/regional-workers-scheme