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Hawke’s Bay Growers Given Help With Labour

Media Release
1 December 2006

Hawke’s Bay Growers Given Help With Tight Labour Supply

Horticulture New Zealand is delighted with the Government’s decision to declare a labour shortage in Central Hawke’s Bay and to authorise Approvals in Principal to bring in overseas labour for two large employers in the region.

A considerable amount of work by the companies, industry and government alike has gone into the preparation of the Approvals. One of the requirements of an Approval in Principal to recruit from overseas labour is to prove that no New Zealanders will be displaced by workers brought into the country.

“Government’s support of the horticulture industry’s labour requirements is a sign that the National Seasonal Labour Strategy for Horticulture and Viticulture is actively working” says Jerf van Beek, National Seasonal Labour Coordinator. “A number of applications for Hawke’s Bay and other regions remain in the system. We anticipate more of these being approved in the next few weeks so growers can start detailed planning for the fast approaching harvest season.“

Mr van Beek went on to say that the decision by the East Coast Regional Commissioner of Work and Income to declare a critical labour shortage in Central Hawke’s Bay was timely as pipfruit orchardists began moving into the peak labour period of thinning and harvest, for which the availability of workers was critical.

The declaration of a regional labour shortage will allow tourists travelling on current visas to access Seasonal Work Permits to work in Central Hawke’s Bay. “We know if they come and work in our industry now there is a high probability that they will be here for our harvest” says Gary Jones, Services Manager for Pipfruit New Zealand.

“We need to make everyone aware of what is happening at this time of the year on orchards. What we are seeing here is unique to Hawke’s Bay,” suggests Mr Jones.

“Hawke’s Bay produces 65% of New Zealand’s apples and thinning is the dominant job at this time of year. It is also the most physically demanding, requiring workers to climb ladders in the heat of summer, and occurs as a short burst of activity over the six weeks leading up to Christmas after which things quieten down again.”

Mr Jones went on to say “It is however a critical job and to make things worse there is not the variety of work that suits all workers. For this reason Work and Income and Industry are struggling to fill all vacancies. We know that New Zealanders will be taking up jobs during the harvest which starts in February. That is when there is a large variety of jobs available, such as work in pack-houses, driving tractors and forklifts, as well as picking.”

The new Registered Seasonal Employer Scheme recently announced by government is designed to replace the Approval in Principle currently being used to meet critical labour shortages. The new Scheme is focused on accessing Pacific labour and is not due to be operational until next year. Industry groups including Horticulture New Zealand have been actively engaged with government on establishing operational details for the Scheme.

“Seasonal labour is one of the most critical issues facing the horticulture industry. Without a reliable supply of suitably skilled labour the industry can’t operate competitively in international markets and our $2.6 billion of export earnings will be at risk,” said Mr van Beek.


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