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Government RSE Worker Announcement Welcomed By Apple Industry

New Zealand Apples & Pears (NZAPI), the industry body representing all apple and pear growers in New Zealand, has welcomed the government's announcement that 2,000 additional RSE workers will be able to enter New Zealand early next year.

Chief Executives from the apple, kiwifruit, and summerfruit sectors, supported by Horticulture New Zealand, recently submitted to the government on the looming labour deficit, and the economic and social consequences of not being able to harvest their crops. The apple industry generates almost $1b in export and domestic earnings, with the fruit grown on 10,500 hectares from Gisborne to Central Otago. 

NZAPI CEO, Alan Pollard, says that “this is a great example of key sectors coming together to find a solution that addresses both the government and industry concerns. We have worked constructively together with the government to achieve this initial outcome, with a commitment to continue to engage where adjustments may be needed”.

The apple industry relies on New Zealanders, backpackers and RSE workers to harvest a crop that increases each year. But border closures have left only a small proportion of backpackers and RSE workers remaining in New Zealand.

The apple industry, along with other horticulture groups, has initiated a number of programmes to attract New Zealanders into the industry. “We have been actively engaged with Work and Income to access as many of their clients as they are able to refer, Corrections for day release prisoners, and a huge effort to mobilise students”, says Pollard. “This announcement won’t solve our labour deficit challenge, but goes some way to helping to reduce it."

Workers will need to enter into managed isolation and quarantine facilities on arrival, with employers meeting those costs.

“We acknowledge the balance that the government has had to make between supporting our critical industries and protecting our communities. Scheduling the RSE arrival for early 2021 ensures that spaces remain available for Kiwis who wish to return home for Christmas, and staggering their entry likewise ensures that there is continued capacity for returning kiwis. We will continue to work with the government on other options that offer viable alternatives to the existing MIQ process”.

The government has also announced further support for unemployed New Zealanders to take on seasonal work. “Our first priority is to create opportunities for unemployed Kiwis to access seasonal work”, says Pollard. “Sometimes there are very real constraints that prevent this from happening. With government support and incentives, some of these barriers can be removed creating opportunities that the unemployed may otherwise not be able to access”. 

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