More overseas workers welcomed to fill labour shortage during fruit harvest

Rural Exchange 25/11/2018

New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries are welcoming the Government's decision to allow more overseas seasonal workers into the country.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme cap will increase by 1,750 to 12,850.

The scheme, which has been in place since 2007, allows employers to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.

Horticulture New Zealand welcomes the change, but believes there is still a major problem with labour shortages in the sector, especially as the industry gears up for the upcoming busy fruit harvest season.

"Horticulture is growing rapidly and, combined with wine, we are an industry earning more than $8.8 billion, this includes more than $5.1 billion of exports," said chief executive Mike Chapman.

Mr Chapman told RadioLIVE’s Rural Exchange that New Zealand needs to do “something more” to tempt workers back here, as more head across the ditch for work.

During harvest and pruning periods around 30,000 workers are required by the industry, and about one-third of these workers come from the RSE scheme.

"It is a mature scheme which sees workers come from the Pacific Islands for set periods of time," said Mr Chapman.

He said unemployment in New Zealand is at a low level which makes people who are willing to do outdoor physical work in short supply.

"Our industry is running a lot of programmes designed to get New Zealanders into work, but in the South Island during harvest there are virtually no New Zealanders available," he said.

The majority of RSE workers are in New Zealand from March through to May for the kiwifruit and apple harvests.

Listen to the full interview with Mike Chapman above.

Rural Exchange with Hamish McKay, Sarah Perriam and Richard Loe, 5-7am Saturday and Sunday on RadioLIVE with Carter’s Tyre Service. Click here for all the ways to watch and listen.

RadioLIVE/Newshub.