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Hawke's Bay Seasonal Worker Recruitment Begins

Seasonal Worker recruitment drive begins

Hawke Bay’s fruit and vegetable industry and Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) have begun a major job recruitment drive called PickNZ to find 17,000 people to harvest this season’s crop.

For the first time, all Hawke’s Bay seasonal work opportunities will be available online in one central location over the harvesting season on a new industry led website which goes “live” today.

New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation director Ru Collin said PickNZ will be one of New Zealand’s greatest job hunting bids aimed at stopping the seasonal labour shortage that looms across the nation’s horticultural sector.

People can now register on the website so they can have time to plan and get on-the-job training. The first apples are expected to be picked from February 10 and the first peak harvest of gala apples starts about February 21. The harvest season runs from February to May.

“Every summer thousands of job hunters descend upon Hawke’s Bay looking for seasonal work, but the industry struggles to keep them.

“The website matches growers with job seekers so that people find jobs and stay working throughout the season and hopefully come back or gain permanent jobs.”

PickNZ’s long-term aim is to create a New Zealand harvest trail of seasonal work where people can travel and work for up to eight months of the year throughout New Zealand’s fruit and vegetable growing regions.

“We are testing it in Hawke’s Bay, where there is the largest seasonal labour demand. If it proves successful we will look at rolling PickNZ out nationally for next year’s harvesting season”.

Mr Collin said all Hawke’s Bay growers, contractors, pack house and coolstore operators, processors and exporters were surveyed to identify the number of jobs needed this season to get their fruit and vegetables harvested and packed.

“They told us we will need to fill 24,000 positions in Hawke’s Bay. 4000 of these are permanent and semi-permanent roles. At peak times during the harvest period the seasonal requirement will take about 17,000 people to fill,” he said.

The site will gather useful information and will provide a “real time” snapshot of the labour situation in Hawke’s Bay. It will also provide information on Hawke’s Bay accommodation options.

“The site offers a one stop solution to both employers and seasonal workers by bringing both groups together. It will provide up-to-date employment and accommodation information in an easy to use format.

Pipfruit, stonefruit and kiwifruit need about 6,000 pickers and 7,000 for post harvest workers. The remainder are needed to harvest grapes, vegetables and local processing factory jobs. Those who took part in the survey are now listed with PICKNZ.

“When looking at the whole horticultural scene, overall crop production in Hawke’s Bay is up about five percent on last year. Although export crops will be less because of seasonal conditions and hail damage, we still have to get all the fruit off the trees and vines,” said Mr Collin.

“Throughout New Zealand we estimate there is enough consistent seasonal work for eight months of the year. To offer that effectively we need to create a national network to manage and co-ordinate the work on offer.

“To create a national harvest trail we will need the support of the rest of our industry and we will be examining how the pilot works in Hawke’s Bay this season,” Mr Collin said.

The website will target New Zealanders with over half the jobs filled from within Hawke’s Bay.

Other labour will be sourced from New Zealand’s working holiday schemes with 22 countries. Potentially 42,000 working holiday permits can be issued.

WINZ East Coast regional commissioner, Lindsay Scott said PICKNZ is a tool for job seekers to connect with seasonal work without having to go through case managers.

“The great benefit for us is that between 30-40% of those that we place in seasonal work go on to full time employment,” Mr Scott said.

Currently there are only 1,870 unemployed in Hawke’s Bay.

WINZ is seeking to also place superannuitants, single parents and unemployed beneficiaries in work.

“Most of these will be placed in horticultural work. Other labour sources are single parent beneficiaries, where we would hope to get at least 1,000 people as well as the retired and non-working spouses,” he said.

WINZ can require unemployment beneficiaries to actively seek work or they risk their benefit being postponed or cancelled.

Mr Scott added a key change is that there is no longer abatement of accommodation supplement for those undertaking part-time work. Subsidy rates for childcare and OSCAR after-school care have also increased, making it easier for single parents to work.

Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association executive officer Dianne Vesty said PickNZ is a tool to integrate communication between regions.

“We’ll be able to share information faster and it enables us to be a lot more proactive.”

At the end of the season, surveys and details of traffic to the site will allow for any fine tuning of its content in response to employer and worker needs.

Hawke’s Bay Tourism general manager Hamish Lowry said the PickNZ concept adds value to the promotion of Hawke’s Bay.

“It creates awareness to a target audience and will drive return visits to the region,” Mr Lowry said.

“In addition it extends Hawke’s Bays tourism season, benefiting local businesses”, he added.

Key Facts on

• 24,000 work opportunities are available in Hawke’s Bay

• 17,000 people needed to fill the 24,000 work opportunities

• 4,000 permanent jobs

• 9,000 positions will be filled within Hawke’s Bay

• 1,870 registered unemployed in Hawke’s Bay

• 30-40% unemployed go on to fulltime employment

• 18.55 million pipfruit cartons to be exported in 2005

• 5% production increase from 2004

Lindsay Scott
WINZ regional commissioner, East Coast Region

What’s the main objective for WINZ with PICKNZ? PICKNZ is a tool for our clients to connect with seasonal work without having to go through case managers. Many of our clients begin with seasonal work which then leads to fulltime employment.

The unemployed rate has dropped significantly – where will you find people? About 17,000 people are needed this year yet currently there are only 1,870 unemployed in Hawke’s Bay. Most of these will be placed in horticultural work. Other labour sources are Single Parent Benefit where we would hope to get at least 1,000 people, also the retired and non-working spouses.

How much money can a beneficiary earn before putting their benefit at risk? An unemployed beneficiary can earn up to $80 a week over and above their benefit. Those on the Single Parent Benefit can earn up to $4,000 a year over the benefit and this is a positive incentive for them to find work during the horticulture season.

How many seasonal jobs are likely to be filled from people within HB? About 9,000.

How many people go on to long-term employment? Approximately 30-40 percent move into long term employment which is a huge benefit to us.

How many people from HB will be employed through WINZ? We currently have 1,870 unemployed and we hope most unemployed find some kind of work.

Will unemployed people from other regions be pushed to HB? They will be attracted to the region for work but the difficulty is finding accommodation. PICKNZ will alleviate some of these problems by developing relationships with accommodation providers but there will be a shortage.

Ru Collin
Grower and New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation Director

There has always been a shortage, will this continue to be the case? If we don’t do anything about it there will always be a shortage.

What are the working conditions like? It’s a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work – basically you can earn about $100 a day. Working in horticulture is far more than just picking a bin of apples. There is a wide range of work available. Basically anyone who is keen and reliable will find a job. It takes about two weeks to learn the job – and by the end of your first season you’re pretty good. It’s a good trade and you can go anywhere in the world with it.

Do other growers and post harvest operators support PICKNZ? They are listed on the PICKNZ website. As an industry we know we must take control of the seasonal labour we need or we will never get on top of it. Hawke’s Bay growers and post harvest operators have taken part in a survey identifying 24,000 work opportunities available this season. Why have you joined forces with WINZ? For the past four years NZFF, HBFA and WINZ have been working together to help find seasonal labour and we are both committed to this project. Winz is working on getting people off the unemployment roll and keeping them in work and to do this they need to partner industry.

What’s the overall cost? This project is a service provider for our industry and our partners. Together our investment is about $180,000 to build PICKNZ and promote it.

How did the concept come about? Three years ago HBFA appointed a seasonal work co-ordinator who has successfully managed foot and phone traffic from people looking for work but our missing link has been capturing virtual traffic. If we want to attract the 18 – 35 year olds we need to be up with the play and basically website job searching is the way of today and the future.

As a grower – how do you currently get workers? There are basically three ways - advertising through the association, newspaper advertising and contractors.

Why is it being piloted in Hawke’s Bay? Hawke’s Bay is the largest pipfruit region and has the greatest resources – it makes sense to test it here first.

What’s the bigger picture of PICKNZ? This season the aim is to test it in Hawke’s Bay. Long-term we hope to provide other regions with a successful tool which will link people and seasonal work in a harvest trail. Dianne Vesty
Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers Association Executive Officer

Is seasonal work rewarding?
Benefits of seasonal work include: - The choice is there, you can work for a short time or a long time - Chance to earn extra money to fulfil financial goals - i.e. purchase car, holiday, pay off debt - Many jobs are outside in the fresh air - Can meet lots of other interesting people - Opportunity to try different types of work opportunities - Gain work skills

What types of jobs are available? Harvest: picking, elevated work platform operation, quality control, tractor driving, forklift operating, truck driving and maintenance, packing, grading, processing, selling. Post Harvest: forklift operator, grader, tray filler, packer, stacker/strapper, data management/tally clerk, cool chain and truck driving.

How many workers do you think have access to the internet? Almost 100% of young people find it easy to access the internet. Internet cafes and access to internet at public libraries are certainly helping people with internet access.

How has the type of worker changed? Back in the 50’s and 60’s seasonal work was carried out by gangs of rural New Zelanders, travelling around the country doing all types of seasonal work, harvesting vege crops, fruit crops, shearing, planting, and many other jobs. Whole families travelled together and were accommodated on farm back then. This all changed in the late 60’ - 70’s when many of our rural dwellers shifted to the cities. Lots of new suburbs were built and families ‘moved to town’. This meant that properties close to these suburbs had a great labour supply in the form of “at home Mothers” who were keen to get out and work with others in the same position and earn some extra money.

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