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Cream Of The Crop Will Get To Market

Government has put business, the health and safety of people and the economy at the front of the queue and will open the borders from the New Year to bring in 2000 experienced seasonal workers from the Pacific, and streamline bureaucracy to allow thousands of short term, visitor, student and working holiday visa holders to stay on to pick and pack our summer horticulture and viticulture harvest.

“The plan to help meet the labour shortage which threatened the viability of orchards and vineyards and sustainability of local employment will not only boost regional and national economic recovery but also support Pacific Island economies so badly hurt as a result of the pandemic,” says Auckland Business Chamber CEO, Michael Barnett. “It will ensure that our multibillion dollar exports of wine and fruits will be ready for export to meet hot demand around the world for our natural, healthful, Covid-free products.”

Mr Barnett said he also welcomed the conditions Government had spelt out including payment of a minimum wage of $22.10 per hour, payment of up to 30 hours a week while the workers coming in under the reignited Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are in managed isolation and a requirement for employers to cover the costs of quarantine.

“It’s a win win on a practical and pastoral care level. It is good for all parties, and our network of Chambers of Commerce around the country who have been speaking up on behalf of the thousands of businesses who depend on this sector to recover and thrive will be delighted that government has indeed listened and responded with such a pragmatic solution,” he said. “The improved conditions may also make fruit picking a more attractive job option.

“Fruit and grape picking has had a bad rap except for those backpackers on their OE and students on summer recess who have had the time of their lives working in some beautiful spots around the country,” he said. “While we will continue to rely on bringing in these skilled seasonal workers for some time to provide the labour force needed to get crops harvested, I would hope the better pay and conditions will encourage new recruits to join the primary production sector in greater numbers. It’s worth a fresh look and long term employment opportunities will continue to emerge as the sector looks for skills as it pushes forward with new varieties, technologies, and processes.”

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