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New workers help kiwifruit industry pick and pack

16 April 2019

Around 250 people have been accepted for a variation of conditions to their visitor visas to work in the labour shortage declaration in the BOP and extension in Hawkes Bay.
BOP labour shortage declaration began 15 April and runs to 27 May 2019.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) are pleased that since the announcement of the declaration on 5 April, around 250 people have successfully applied to vary the conditions of their visitor visas to work in the labour shortage declaration in the Bay of Plenty and extension in Hawkes Bay. The number is expected to increase sharply over this week. In 2018, around 230 people successfully applied for a VOC in the Bay of Plenty over the declaration period.

This week marks the beginning of the peak of harvest for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty. More than 18,000 seasonal workers will be required to pick and pack the iconic piece of kiwiana. The peak is expected to last until the end of May.

NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson says, “while we are pleased our attraction campaign has increased the number of visitors who have shown interest to work in the kiwifruit industry, we are likely to require more workers to pick and pack at season peak.

“As a first priority, we are calling on people who live in close proximity to orchards and packhouses to roll up their sleeves and join us in this booming industry.” Those from further afield are recommended to secure accommodation before arriving.

Current estimates put the potential labour shortfall at peak around 3,550 the Bay of Plenty’s kiwifruit industry. There was a shortfall of 1,200 vacancies at the peak of harvest in 2018. The shortage places the current workforce under pressure to pick and pack this years’ estimated volume of over 155 million trays. So far around a quarter has been picked and packed.

Potential employees who would like to find work in the kiwifruit industry can find information around employers, job types and rights on the NZKGI website ( Overseas visitors are encouraged to visit the Immigration New Zealand website where detailed information about varying the conditions of a visa can be found.

Background to the declaration
• NZKGI has been running a media campaign to promote work in the kiwifruit industry and early signals indicate that this has gone some way in reducing the number of vacancies.
• NZKGI has recently secured co-funding and employed a labour coordinator to connect employers with workers over harvest and analyse current and future labour demands of the kiwifruit industry.
• Between January and April 2019, MSD has placed nearly 500 job seekers into the kiwifruit industry.
• The kiwifruit industry continues to have robust discussions with Government around increasing the number of workers available under the RSE scheme, as well as other avenues to meet demand during harvest.
• A University of Waikato report forecasts that the kiwifruit industry contribution to the Bay of Plenty’s GDP will increase 135% by 2030 to $2.04 billion and require 14,329 new kiwifruit jobs.
• The last declaration of a labour shortage for the kiwifruit industry was made in 2018 when the unemployment rate in the Bay of Plenty was 5.9%[1]. The current unemployment rate is 4.8%[2].

[1] As of December 2017. Source: Infometrics
2 As of December 2018. Source: Infometrics

Kiwifruit Facts and Figures
• Kiwifruit is New Zealand’s largest horticultural export.
• New Zealand kiwifruit production is expected to jump from 123 million trays in 2017 to 190 million trays in 2027.
• The kiwifruit industry’s revenue is expected to jump from $2.1 billion in 2017 to $6 billion by 2030.
• A critical labour shortage could hinder this growth.
• In comparison to 2017 numbers, the kiwifruit industry will require an additional 7,000 workers by 2027.
• In 2017 when the minimum wage was $15,75, the average wage for picking kiwifruit was $20.95.
• The expected picking rate in 2019 is $23.50.

About New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated
New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) works to advocate, protect and enhance the commercial and political interests of New Zealand kiwifruit growers. We represent kiwifruit growers, giving them their own voice in industry and government decision making.

Kiwifruit is by far New Zealand’s largest fresh horticultural export, with sales of NZ fruit in 2017/18 of NZ$1.7 billion. In 2017/18 over 2,500 growers sold 123 million trays of kiwifruit to over 50 markets. The industry is experiencing strong growth which is expected to continue over the coming years.

Our headquarters in the Bay of Plenty, the geographic heart of the kiwifruit industry, is the central hub for the NZKGI Executive Committee, Forum members and staff.

More information about our portfolios of Industry Stability, Performance, Communications, Labour & Education, External Relations and Organisational Management can be found on our website:

Information on the Variation of Conditions
The New Zealand Immigration website has detailed information on varying the conditions of a visitor visa:

In addition, NZKGI has created a factsheet which explains the process for people on visitor visas to vary their conditions:

[1] As of December 2017. Source: Infometrics
[2] As of December 2018. Source: Infometrics


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