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Seasonal Employment Lessens Hawkes Bay Jobless

22 March 2002

Seasonal Employment Drives Hawkes Bay Jobless Numbers Down

Nearly 3,000 Hawkes Bay job seekers have found seasonal work since the end of January - cutting the number of people on the unemployment benefit by more than half, Social Services and Employment Minister Steve Maharey said today.

Steve Maharey is in Hawkes Bay today and visited a free child-care service based at the Maraenui Family Faith Fellowship funded by Work and Income for job seekers who would otherwise have been able to take up seasonal work opportunities. At the centre he met with Work and Income Regional Commissioner Lindsay Scott; Aru Makirere and Vicki Hill, Work and Income seasonal work coordinators; members of the Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association and Margaret Ngapera, Reta Pohe and Pastor Reta from the Maraenui Faith Family Fellowship. The centre, which provides service from 5am until 6pm, is being funded from the Transition to Work Contestable Fund established by the government in the 2001 budget to support beneficiaries to move into the paid workforce.

Steve Maharey said new initiatives and pre-season planning have had a significant positive impact in recruiting people from the job seeker register into seasonal work in Hawkes Bay and the other key seasonal work regions this year.

“Work and Income staff have been pulling out all stops to ensure that unemployment beneficiaries are placed into work where there are seasonal opportunities. In the Hawkes Bay this has seen numbers on the unemployment benefit drop by 2,901 to 2,430 recipients over the seven-week period to 14 March.

“New Zealand’s horticultural industries are key players in our economy. Horticultural exports are currently worth $2b annually and this is predicted to reach $3.5b by 2010.

“This year particular focus has gone on to better meeting the horticultural industry’s needs for workers around the country. A range of local initiatives have been developed to meet a growing need for workers, including:

- in Hawkes Bay in addition to the free childcare scheme, the Ministry of Social Development has designated staff to work directly with fruitgrowers to identify their labour needs and has run a free bus service in partnership with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council linking Flaxmere and some Napier suburbs with major growers and packhouses;

- in the Bay of Plenty a cadet scheme had been established for those wanting to pursue careers in the Kiwifruit packhouses involving the Bay of Plenty polytechnic, Kiwifruit packhouses, Priority 1 and MSD Work and Income. Twenty cadets, who will complete a 3-year Certificate in Fruit Production are working in a number of different packhouses across the Bay of Plenty region;

- in Nelson a committee comprising Work and Income, the Fruitgrowers’ Federation and the Nelson Regional Fruitgrowers’ Committee has been established and a coordinator has been appointed to work on seasonal labour issues for Nelson/Tasman pip fruit growers. A daily bus service has been running to take job seekers for their initial visit to orchards requiring staff; work permits processes with the New Zealand Immigration Service have been streamlined; and packhouse training programmes have been run;

- in Otago a taskforce comprising the Central Otago District Council, representatives of various fruitgrowing bodies, Otago Polytechnic, the New Zealand Immigration Service and Work and Income has been established and has been surveying worker needs for the area for the next five years. Once finalised, the Taskforce will work through the report and develop a strategy to implement its recommendations.

“Planning at a local level is to be supplemented by a national industry forum planned for April which will involved the Fruitgrowers’ Federation, Department of Labour, Ministry of Social Development, Industry New Zealand and Skill New Zealand. It is intended that this group will report directly to government on ways to better meet the labour needs of seasonal industries,” Steve Maharey said.

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