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Winston Peters: "Send the military planes to Pacific to pick up seasonal workers"

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters is suggesting using military aircraft to bring seasonal workers from the Pacific into New Zealand to work on its orchards.

Mr Peters, who is also New Zealand's Foreign Minister, said that New Zealand's military could be doing "so much more" to prevent more economic damage in the horticulture sector.

He also took credit for one of the Government's most popular Covid-19 business policies – the small business loan scheme.

In response to a question about the horticulture sector, which has been struggling to find staff to pick its fruit, Mr Peters had a new solution to this problem.

"It may be that we need to fly these people [seasonal workers] out of Vanuatu and out of Tonga and out of the Pacific on military planes to get them here," he said.

"They [these countries] are Covid free so they don't need to go through the quarantine."

He said that getting commercial airliners to Pacific countries from New Zealand has not been possible.

"I think our military could be doing so much more – and we need to do it."

Mr Peters' said it was important to have experience in Government – "If you don't believe me, explain to me KiwiBuild?" he rhetorically asked the roughly 50 people in attendance.

He said the "other side" handled KiwiBuild – "and the rest, you know, is history".

That policy was arguably one of this Government's biggest failures, delivering nowhere near the number of houses it had promised.

Mr Peters used the same "others side" line when talking about how it was NZ First which stopped Auckland's light rail project going ahead in this term in Government.

He also took credit for the Government's small loan scheme – a programme where eligible businesses can get a $10,000 loan, which is interest-free the first year.

"What was extraordinary about that announcement was it's not their [Labour's] policy, it's ours," Peters said. "Our idea has been taken up massively because it does work."

In fact, he revealed that his party and Labour ministers had a "serious argument" about it. "Right to the wire, if you please," he told supporters.

He said that the argument was around how much the support loan should be.

Mr Peters said Labour ministers wanted it to be a $60,000 loan – Peters wanted it to be $100,000.

And he added that it was NZ First who wanted to add the 3 per cent interest rate. "We said 'if you can't perform at 3 per cent … maybe you're not going to make it." 

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