20 Oct 2020

Death of seasonal worker in Hawke's Bay 'awful blow to the community'

1:20 pm on 20 October 2020

A member of the Hawke's Bay Samoan community says the fatal crash involving Pasifika workers is an awful blow.

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A Samoan man in his late 30s died after a crash on the Napier-Taupō highway. Photo: RNZ/ Tom Kitchin

One man died and 10 horticulture workers were taken to hospital - some in critical condition - after their van collided with a truck on a stretch of road between Napier and Taupō.

Covid-19 travel restrictions mean many Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers have been forced to stay in New Zealand and away from their families for many months.

Police said the workers were heading to Taupō for a short holiday.

Funeral director Tim Leiataualesa Niuapu Hutchins, who knew the deceased, said the Sāmoan family and the whole Hawke's Bay community would be reeling.

"We understand the struggle that the boys have been through over the last 10 months of being here and how this has definitely affected the RSE community, but not only them but also the community of Hawke's Bay.

"We value hugely our RSE workers and we're very proud our Sāmoan RSE workers ... a lot of them have been returning for seven, eight, 10 years ... they've been coming back and forth. This will be an incident that will shock the community deeply.

He believed the body would be repatriated to Samoa to have cultural funeral processions back on the island.

"It's an awful blow to the community."

A teenager remains in a critical condition in Hawke's Bay Hospital.

Four other people being treated in Hawke's Bay, two in Palmerston North and one in Gisborne are all in a stable condition.

Two men treated in Rotorua Hospital's emergency department have been discharged.

Police said it is too early to determine the cause of the crash, but say that stretch of road is one of the country's most deadly.

A prayer meeting has been held by colleagues of the worker who died.

The managing director of Thornhill Horticultural Contracting, Richard Bibby, said colleagues got together last night.