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Picking the best of the bunch in the Hawke’s Bay

22 March 2005

Picking the best of the bunch in the Hawke’s Bay

Hawke’s Bay fruitgrowers are meeting the challenges of staff shortages for the 2005 summer harvest by using the internet to pick the best New Zealand – and the world – has to offer.

Pick NZ is a Hawke’s Bay-based website launched this year matching up jobseekers with around 24,000 horticultural jobs within the region. Orchard Manager for Mr Apple, Jerf van Beek says Pick NZ is an industry first to help horticulturalists work more efficiently.

Jerf van Beek is speaking at this week’s Regional Development Conference in Napier. The conference is focused on moving regional development in New Zealand up a level to meet the demands of a changing international environment.

Jerf van Beek says with commercial orchards growing larger, and the reliance on workers from overseas greater, the time was ripe for the industry to move recruitment methods into the future.

“We are making the connection not just with people in New Zealand, but with people from other countries. Instead of workers seeing a sign at the gate, we have moved that sign across the whole world.

“Pick NZ is a good tool for growers to use to get in touch with staff, whether they are in New Zealand or overseas. It has made a connection with people who are travelling, and also those who are out of work in New Zealand. There has been a tremendous amount of hits on the site, so it has become very popular.”

Pick NZ is a joint initiative between the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation, Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association, New Zealand Immigration Service and Work and Income New Zealand. It currently offers employment opportunities in the Hawke’s Bay region, and by the 2005/06 season will be advertising orchard work nation-wide.

Jerf van Beek says Pick NZ is the first website of its kind in New Zealand to fulfil employment needs in the fruitgrowing industry.

“Internet-based recruitment is the only way forward, especially with more and more travellers and overseas people working in orchards here. It is much better than making telephone calls – you can ask questions over the internet without feeling you are bothering anyone.”

With the increased reliance on staff from overseas to work through the picking season, Jerf van Beek says the government should examine the criteria for issuing work permits to travellers.

“People come to orchards and think it is idyllic to pick apples in New Zealand, but it is not for everyone. There is a certain amount of backbone required. We want people who apply for working holiday visas to be the type of people we want to employ.”

Because of the seasonal nature of orchard work, Jerf van Beek says employees have different requirements to workers in other industries. For example, people may need to know about the possibility of on-site accommodation and the availability of kitchen and laundry facilities.

“Accommodation is very hard to get in the Hawke’s Bay, and in most horticultural regions. We have worked on that and made investments in better quality housing. Orchards that have accommodation generally attract a larger number of better quality staff.”

Employment in the horticulture industry has changed dramatically over the past decade, says Jerf van Beek. Orchards are now larger and that in turn has lead to larger teams working both outside and in packhouses.

“As a company, Mr Apple will be employing up to 1200 people at the height of the picking season. We will be recruiting good workers from all over New Zealand and the world with Pick NZ – so far it has been very successful.” This year’s Regional Development Conference is the third to be held and runs from March 21-23. It is jointly hosted by the Minister for Industry and Regional Development, Jim Anderton, the Ministry of Economic Development, New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, EDANZ and the Hawke’s Bay region.

ENDS

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