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Solving Horticulture’s Labour Issues

Media Release 12 October 2006

Solving Horticulture’s Labour Issues - Partnership with Government Strengthened

The continued increase in horticultural production, to $4.5 billion of exports in 2005, has increased the industry’s labour requirements creating a shortage of skilled workers within New Zealand. This shortage is particularly evident in the pipfruit, kiwifruit and wine sectors.

A meeting was held yesterday between industry representatives and the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon Dr Michael Cullen, Minister of Agriculture, Hon Jim Anderton, and the Minister for Social Development and Employment, Hon David Benson-Pope, to find a solution to the labour shortage and ensure that future production is not restricted.

The meeting aimed to strengthen existing coordinated action by industry and Government on labour. This partnership aims to allow the horticulture industry the ability to plan its requirements in advance regarding access to, and use of, overseas labour.

Producing quality product was the key driver behind yesterday’s approach to Government. The horticulture industry is focused on producing the world’s best produce. This high standard of quality product maintains New Zealand’s premium place within world markets. But maintaining this standard requires pruning, picking and packing to be done at the optimum time by the right number of skilled workers.

The horticulture industry prefers to employ New Zealanders first and offers industry based training but increased production has required additional workers that are not available in New Zealand. Under the partnership developed with Government, access to overseas labour to supplement the New Zealand workforce will be considered under reasonable controls to be imposed by Government. The partnership will aim to ensure that both industry and Government’s requirements are met.

Industry representatives at yesterday’s meeting were Peter Silcock, from Horticulture New Zealand, Mike Chapman and Graham Wiggins from New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc, Peter Beaven from Pipfruit New Zealand, Philip Gregan from New Zealand Winegrowers and the industry’s newly appointed National Seasonal Labour Coordinator, Jerf van Beek.

ENDS

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