7 Oct 2020

Growers hopeful for government support to address labour shortage

5:15 pm on 7 October 2020

The horticulture industry is still holding onto hope that some RSE workers from the Pacific may be able to come into the country to help harvest fruit this season.

Farm worker filling basket of green grapes in the vineyards during the grape harvest. Woman putting grapes into the plastic crate. Focus on grapes in container.

Photo: 123RF

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi met with growers in Hastings to hear the sector's concerns about the looming labour shortage due to border restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard was at the meeting, which he described as being a constructive one.

Pollard said the sector was urgently trying to provide assurances to Faafoi that all possible sources of labour available in New Zealand have been exhausted and that bringing in Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers was absolutely essential.

He said Faafoi wanted to see a calculation of demand versus supply and then a plan for how the sector might bridge the shortfall with workers coming from the Pacific Islands.

"I think there's still a glimmer of hope ... I'm hopeful. We, within the next few days, will be going back to [the] minister with what we propose as a good plan right across the labour force and hopefully, he will engage with us then and we'll find a solution that works for both of us."

After the meeting yesterday, Faafoi told media he asked the industry to work with MPI and Immigration to see how they could maximise the use of the workers already in New Zealand.

He said no commitments were made.

"We're just saying at the moment, 'we want you to do the best with what's here in New Zealand ... and that is a big challenge'.

"If they get to the point where they have worked as a sector to say 'hey look, we still have a need for RSE', then they'll do that, but they've still got a bit of work to do."

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