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Alexandra-based industry recruiter Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby put the situation bluntly.
"Nothing has changed."
Seasonal work shortages, an annual problem, have become a crisis due to border closures because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"I think everyone who is involved have been putting the case to [Government] ministers — industry groups, ourselves, and individual growers.
"We are working with a number of agencies including MSD [the Ministry of Social Development]."
Although recruiters continued to work closely with MSD to fill gaps with New Zealand workers, there remained an acute shortage, Ms Axby said.
"What we are actually lacking to do is to replace our usual cohort of backpackers on working holiday visas. It’s gone from 70,000 to somewhere in the region of 11,000.
"It is filling the gap left by backpackers that is the critical factor."
To address this, Seasonal Solutions was targeting students at university campuses nationwide, and having a presence at events to try to entice would-be workers to Central Otago’s vineyards and orchards.
That was in tandem with other recruitment measures such as MSD’s Work the Seasons.
The sectors were also feeling the loss of recognised seasonal employer (RSE) scheme workers, only 120 of them remaining in the district, Ms Axby said.
"They will be sorely missed because they are skilled. I think there is a level of resignation among the growers that to do the actual harvest they will have to get through that without the RSE workers."
That left agencies such MSD to find solutions.
MSD’s Work the Seasons website was established in 2018 and was designed to make it easier for seasonal workers to find the job and for employers to find the right person.
The website was a partnership between MSD and Auckland technology company Joy Business Academy (JBA).
JBA chief executive James Coddington said it built and maintained the site for MSD and referred all questions to the ministry.
An MSD spokesman said it was working on a response to allay the concerns of growers.