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Letter to Immigration Minister From Early Harvesting Growers



The following Open Letter to the Minister of Immigration has been released by a group of horticultural growers who are frustrated by many months of inaction by the Minister who has failed to announce the “CAP”, which states how many additional RSE workers (immigrant workers from overseas) will be allowed into New Zealand to assist with harvesting early stage crops such as asparagus and strawberries.

It follows months of discussions with MBIE and several requests to the Minister to announce the number of additional workers he will allow into New Zealand. Originally assured it would be July, then August, and now into September, growers are extremely disappointed that the Minister’s review of migrant workers announced yesterday failed to address the issue of RSE workers or the CAP.


18 September 2019

Hon Iain Lees-Galloway
Minister of Immigration
Parliament Buildings

Dear Minister

We know you are aware of the difficulties that some parts of the horticulture industry are having, trying to harvest their crops with no workforce because Immigration New Zealand will not move quickly enough to approve RSE workers.

We also have just been made aware that you are not prepared to advise when you will be announcing the “CAP” which will give the sector certainty about how many RSE workers will be allowed in for this season.

We can only assume that you are unaware that your failure to announce the CAP will result in the horticulture businesses that harvest in October and November having to leave a large proportion of their crops rotting in the ground AGAIN, as happened last year, when you were late in announcing the CAP.

The undersigned are formally seeking your response to the following questions:

1. Are you aware that strawberry and asparagus farmers harvest their crops from September and October this year?
2. Are you aware that it takes weeks or sometimes months to arrange RSE worker travel to NZ to be approved by their home countries?
3. Are you aware that in response to earlier requests from Immigration New Zealand, many growers have already constructed accommodation blocks which are sitting empty because you are not doing your job?
4. Are you aware that your repeated failure to announce the CAP (i.e. how many more RSE workers you will allow into New Zealand) is tantamount to sabotaging the horticulture businesses so dramatically affected by your failure to act?
5. Are you aware of the repeated delays and obstructions placed in the way of growers when they seek answers from Immigration New Zealand?
6. Are you aware that in failing to announce the CAP you are making the lives of those Immigration New Zealand employees even more difficult because they have no answers to the legitimate requests from growers for information on the CAP?
7. Do you not care that you are adversely impacting the lives of thousands of NZ workers who are totally dependent on RSE (overseas) workers to harvest crops which New Zealand workers do not want to or are physically unfit to do?
8. Do you not care that your failure to announce the CAP in the required timely manner is conducting economic warfare on early-harvesting businesses?
9. Do you even understand the importance of RSE workers to the thousands of jobs and millions of dollars involved in the early-harvesting horticulture sector?
10. When will you realise that your failure to announce the CAP in a timely manner last year resulted in crops rotting in the ground and workers without jobs?
11. How do you reconcile your failure to even consider the lives of thousands of horticulture workers with your trade union background?

We call on you to act IMMEDIATELY to save the businesses, jobs and livelihood of thousands of New Zealanders.

Yours in eternal hope and desperation:

TAMAHERE BERRY LTD, Matangi, Hamilton -strawberries, Kiwifruit and Blueberries
DUNROMIN ORCHARD LTD, Kerikeri, Zucchini
A S WILCOX & SONS LTD, Pukekohe, Outdoor vegetable production
STRAWBERRY FIELDS, Hamilton, Strawberries
KAIPAKI BERRIES LTD, Ohaupo, Strawberries
PUNCH BOWL LTD, Pukekohe,Kiwifruit
SUNRISE BERRIES LTD, Onewhero, Strawberries and Raspberries
PHIL GREIG STRAWBERRIES, Auckland, Strawberries
PUKEMAPU SERVICES LTD, Bay of Plenty Kiwifruit Contractor
ANONYMOUS, Auckland, Kiwifruit
PERRYS BERRY LTD, Auckland, Strawberries and Nursery

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