BACKPACKERS: The new Tomato building.
BACKPACKERS: The new Tomato building. Mike Knott BUN020816TOMATO1

Holiday workers pour in as farm jobs rise

BACKPACKERS are likely to have had a hand in 1,500 extra Wide Bay farm jobs recorded in the 12 months to November.

Bundaberg Fruit and Vegetable Growers' Bree Grima said the hard fought battle over the backpacker tax in 2016 had resulted in a "more manageable and internationally competitive” 15% tax rate on working holiday makers.

And Bundaberg has the facilities to welcome the extra numbers, including the new 126-bed Tomato Backpackers in the Bundaberg CBD and a 250-bed hostel slated for Gin Gin, reflected the ag sector's growth.

Lychee grower Derek Foley said he employed more than 40 people to pick and pack the fruit at the height of the season, made up of around half locals and half holiday workers.

"Every farm is different,” he said in the Electra Farms packing shed.

"I have a number of local workers who return year after year.” - see Vicki over there?

"She has worked here for 12 years.”

LONG TIME LYCHEE LOVER: Bundaberg local Vicky De Louwer has packed lychees at Electra Farms for 12 years.
LONG TIME LYCHEE LOVER: Bundaberg local Vicky De Louwer has packed lychees at Electra Farms for 12 years. Eliza Goetze

Returning local workers can be a bonus because they don't need to be trained again, he said.

Employers have less than two weeks to register for the 15% tax rate, which applies to salary and wages paid from January 1, 2017.

If you don't register, you must use the foreign resident withholding rates which start at 32.5% for the first $37,000.

Penalties apply if you employ 417 or 462 visa holders and you don't register as an employer of working holiday makers.

Head to here to register before January 31.



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