Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Govt addressing Northland seasonal work needs

Government addressing Northland seasonal work needs

Claims that the government was failing Northland fruit growers by supplying unreliable orchard staff through Work and Income were untrue, Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment Rick Barker said.

"New Zealand immigration laws do not allow foreign visitors to work here without the correct permit. It is unconscionable for one industry sector to assume it can openly flaunt those laws, while blaming the government for its perceived failure to meet Northland's seasonal work needs.

"In March a seasonal work co-ordinator was appointed with co-operation from the Kerikeri Fruitgrowers Society to meet with growers and gauge their workforce needs for the coming season.

"Work and Income will also run pre-employment training for the industry, in conjunction with the growers, to ensure that there is an adequate and prepared labour force ready and available for next season.

"Since January, 300 clients were placed in Northland orchards and packhouses, while Work and Income also gained approval from the Immigration Service for up to 100 temporary work visas to be issued. To date, only one request from a grower has been received for one fruit picker.

"In April, approximately 42 illegal foreign nationals came forward during an immigration sanctuary day in Northland and immigration staff worked with them to identify who could remain in the country.

"Twenty of the 42 individuals who came forward had valid visitor permits and were told they could apply for work permits to allow them to pick fruit. The remainder were told that they would have to leave the country.

"Because people in New Zealand unlawfully are not allowed to work, the Immigration Service has been working closely with fruitgrowers in Northland, Otago and Hawke's Bay in an effort to assist them in finding seasonal workers.

"When Work and Income declares that there is a shortage of labour, the Immigration Service has the discretion to convert visitor permits to work permits to allow foreign nationals to pick fruit."

Mr Barker said two Northland community trusts are also assisting Work and Income by helping transport orchard staff from Kawakawa and Kaikohe to Kerikeri. One of the trusts has assisted 70 people to orchard work.

"Growers must also be aware that labour problems in Northland have been compounded by the way that payment rates are structured, with workers paid by the bin load rather than by the hour.

"The Department of Labour also had significant concerns about the wages paid and workplace conditions of some seasonal employees."

As Associate Minister for Social Development and Employment, operational oversight of Work and Income fell into Mr Barker's portfolio.

He said growers from Kerikeri to Central Otago could be assured that the government was doing more to meet their seasonal workforce demands than ever before.

"In fact, if any beneficiary put forward for such work fails to attend or walks out on a grower, that person runs the risk of losing their entitlement to a benefit.

"But if that happens and growers choose to use illegal foreign workers, they can hardly be surprised if the Immigration Service then visits their businesses.

"The removal of draconian and punitive programmes like work-for-the-dole has not given beneficiaries an excuse to avoid seasonal work in Northland, or anywhere else in the country.

"While I acknowledge that the labour demands of Northland growers have been difficult to meet, Work and Income is not sitting on its hands.

"There is still work to do to accommodate the needs of growers and Work and Income and other government departments are working hard to achieve that."

© Scoop Media

Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Werewolf: What Does Winston Peters Want His Legacy To Be?

A lot of people in New Zealand seem to resent Winston Peters and the power that he appears to have. “Appears” being the operative word. In reality, Peters will have power only up to the point that he uses it.

By next week, he’ll have become just another junior player in an MMP governing arrangement, battling to hold onto the gains he was promised. More>>


Rising Toll: Road Safety Needs To Be A Higher Priority

Official advice released to the Green Party under the Official Information Act shows that the previous National Government dismissed an option to make road safety its most important transport priority after being told the road toll was rising. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Arrests At Blockade Of "Weapons Expo"

“We encourage people in Wellington to get down to the Westpac Stadium now for a day of awesome peace action. There will be plenty of food, music and activities to keep us sustained through the day.” More>>


Rorschach Restructuring: PSA Taking Inland Revenue To Court Over Psychometrics

The Public Service Association will be seeing Inland Revenue in Employment Court over its intention to psychometrically test employees reapplying for their roles at the department as part of its controversial Business Transformation restructuring plan. More>>


Nuclear Disarmament: Nobel Peace Prize 2017 Awarded To ICAN

Congratulations from iCAN Aotearoa New Zealand to international iCAN, the other iCAN national campaigns and partner organisations, and the countless organisations and individuals who have worked so hard for a nuclear weapons-free world since 1945. More>>


Expenses: Waikato DHB CEO Resigns

An independent inquiry has identified that Dr Murray had spent more than the agreed $25K allocated for relocation costs, and other unauthorized expenses involving potential financial breaches of the chief executive’s obligations. More>>


Wellington.Scoop: Sad About The Trolley Buses?

The Regional Council’s MetLink is today spending money to tell us that it really loves Wellington’s trolley buses, even though they’re all being taken off our roads by the end of this month. More>>


Post-Election: Preliminary Coalition Talks Begin

New Zealand First will hold post-election preliminary discussions in Wellington with the National Party tomorrow morning and the Labour Party tomorrow afternoon. More>>




Featured InfoPages

Opening the Election