2000 more Pacific horticultural workers to be admitted

Photo: Supplied
Photo: Supplied
The Government has announced 2000 workers from the Pacific will be allowed into New Zealand to fill shortages in the horticulture and wine-growing sectors.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor and Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said the workers, who would be required to isolate at isolation hotels, would arrive from January to March.

It comes after Central Otago orchardists and winegrowers have been among those who have blamed the Government for significant worker shortages.

Ahead of the announcement, some questioned why fishermen from countries rife with Covid-19 were allowed into New Zealand when workers from the relatively untouched Pacific were not.

The industries have typically been reliant on both backpackers and the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which allowed workers from Pacific countries to come to New Zealand for seasonal work.

In a normal year, up to 14,400 RSE workers filled seasonal labour shortages, but only 6000 remain in New Zealand now.

Both workforces have been hit by Covid-19 travel restrictions.

Mr O’Connor said the Government had listened to concerns from the industries.

"We accept they need help to meet labour shortages that threaten harvests this coming season."

As there was limited capacity in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, entry would be staggered — starting from January, to avoid peak holiday demand from New Zealanders wanting to return for Christmas.

“This is the single largest economic-based class border exception to date.’’

The Government had also made clear the industry needed initiatives to attract New Zealanders into horticultural work.

Mr Faafoi acknowledged fewer seasonal workers would be available than in previous years but noted that the Government was helping New Zealanders take up seasonal jobs and had made changes to allow foreign workers already in the country to stay.

The exception would also help New Zealand’s Pacific Island neighbours whose economies had been hit hard by Covid-19.

The exceptions showed the Government’s willingness to adjust border settings if a balance could be struck which protected against Covid-19 while supporting New Zealand’s economic recovery, he said.

Business Central has welcomed the decision to allow the workers into New Zealand.

"The horticulture and wine industry have been calling for this announcement for several months now, so it is good to finally have some progress in this area," Chief Executive John Milford said.

"This will take the total number of Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers in New Zealand to just under 7,000. While that is a significant number, it is nowhere near the number we usually have around this time of year.

"It is a good first step and hopefully this announcement acts as a bit of momentum when it comes to getting more critical workers into the country."

New Zealand Apples & Pears (NZAPI), the industry body representing all apple and pear growers in New Zealand, also welcomed the news.

NZAPI CEO Alan Pollard said chief executives from the apple, kiwifruit, and summerfruit sectors, supported by Horticulture New Zealand, had recently submitted to the government on the looming labour deficit, and the economic and social consequences of not being able to harvest their crops.

Mr Pollard said it was "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 generates almost $1b in export and domestic earnings, with the fruit grown on 10,500 hectares from Gisborne to Central Otago.




Bad decision.
The growers have no-one but themselves to blame for their predicament. They have , over the lat 30 years, used the free market to deliberately positioned themselves exactly where they are now, totally reliant on a cheap and compliant, foreign, unskilled workforce.
They should be left to sort their own mess out and not be bailed out by the NZ taxpayer.

The incentives to not work, are too great. This is putting a plaster on a wound that needs stitching. It also makes total sense to quarantine people from countries that have not had a case, doesn't it?

Who is monitoring the growers?...and that the Pacific Islanders are not exploited and paid on a fair wage.