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Pressure on to find seasonal workers

Pressure on to find seasonal workers and avert a labour shortage for New Zealand’s fruit harvesting season

Hawke’s Bay’s fruit and vegetable industry will still be one of New Zealand’s largest employers over the next few months, despite last season’s poor apple export returns.

Pressure for seasonal labour is mounting as harvesting gets underway next week and the gala pick is expected to peak a week early around 25 February.

The industry is calling out for seasonal workers now to prevent a potential labour shortage which threatens the region each year.

Horticulture New Zealand director Ru Collin said concern had been mounting that seasonal workers might not think there were as many work opportunities because the apple industry was at a low.

However already over 1800 people had been employed in seasonal work through the recruitment website www.picknz.co.nz during January.

“Overall numbers would be only slightly down on last year’s thousands of work opportunities needed to pick and process the country’s record apple crop,” Mr Collin said.

“It was important that the industry made a conscious effort to prevent the annual seasonal labour shortage,” he added.

The pressure is on because harvesting will start a week earlier running from 25 February to May.

“The season is starting a week earlier than normal and the peaks will also be in a more condensed period, in other words the fruit is ready and we have to get it off,” Mr Collin said.

“The second peak of the season, for Braeburn apples in Hawke’s Bay is expected to fall before Easter and we need to keep workers here and interested in working before following the harvest trail to Bay of Plenty,” he added.

Hawke’s Bay was recently declared a region of “absolute labour shortage” by the Department of Labour.

To help prevent a seasonal labour shortage the Department of Labour initiated a pilot seasonal work permit policy allocating 4000 permits. Last year only 800 permits were issued for Hawke’s Bay.
Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association executive officer Dianne Vesty said the PickNZ pilot initiated in Hawke’s Bay in 2005 was a huge success and it has provided a platform to make regular contact with workers.

The PickNZ website recruitment tool’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.

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

“Employees are dealing directly with the employer and this provides an opportunity to get better employment conditions including higher pay rates.

“There is enough consistent seasonal work for at least eight months of the year and PickNZ creates a national network to manage and co-ordinate the work on offer.

Based on the PickNZ pilot success, some of Hawke’s Bay 1600 registered unemployed will be directly connected with seasonal work without having to go through case managers.

Work & Income says there are work opportunities for superannuitants, single parents and unemployed beneficiaries.

Most will be placed in horticultural work. Other labour sources are single parent beneficiaries as well as willing retired and non-working spouses.

About PickNZ

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

PickNZ is an initiative of Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association (HBFA), Horticulture New Zealand supported by other government agencies including Immigration, Inland Revenue. Hawke’s Bay Tourism, Backpacker Hostels are also helping the project.

ENDS

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