Seasonal labourer shortage declared

A bumper cherry crop for the second successive season has led to a seasonal labour market shortage being declared, also for the second year in a row.

With the fruit and grape seasons shaping up well, the labour supply in Central Otago is likely to be stretched.

The cherry harvest will need about 3000 workers and additional staff are required for apple and grape harvests.

The Ministry of Social Development, together with the Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group, has declared the shortage for six weeks from January 5 until February 15.

"This means that Immigration New Zealand can now approve a Variation of Conditions for visitors to New Zealand who already hold visitor visas providing they meet the qualification criteria,'' Ministry of Social Development Southern regional commissioner John Allen said.

"Overseas people can undertake jobs planting, maintaining, harvesting and packing crops.''

"While there are a number of unemployed New Zealanders in the area and it is our top priority to help them into work, there are not enough people to meet the needs of growers in this region during this busy time,'' he said.

Declaring the shortage was a "last resort'' after exhausting all other sources to find enough workers.

Summerfruit New Zealand chairman Gary Bennetts said it was "a good problem to have, in some ways, because it means we've got good crops.''

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