A comprehensive plan has been handed to the government to address the critical seasonal labour challenges being faced by the horticulture and viticulture sectors in Hawke’s Bay due to COVID-19.
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise met with Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi at parliament last week, along with industry representatives, to deliver the plan on behalf of the region.
The action plan details the considerable work the sectors are doing to the meet the critical labour challenges such as developing a long-term Workforce Development Strategy to support New Zealanders into full-time work in the sector.
The plan also highlights the commitments employers are making including:
- The creation of 1000 permanent jobs in the next five years
- Work to effectively support New Zealand workers entering the workforce (e.g. provision of seasonal and permanent roles), and an effective staircase through to valuable and well-paying permanent employment for a range of New Zealanders with challenging circumstances;
- Increasing pay rates for workers; and
- Reporting to government on how it is meeting these commitments
Growers are also asking central government to provide space at quarantine facilities for RSE workers for the upcoming thinning and picking season as well as approve a plan to accommodate returning RSE workers from COVID-free Pacific Island countries at a government-run isolation facility in Hawke’s Bay.
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said it was really important as local leaders to speak directly to the Immigration Minister about this crisis.
“Minister Faafoi commended us for being the first region in the country to deliver government a plan to help with the seasonal labour shortage, which shows our commitment to supporting our growers during this really challenging time.”
Napier Mayor Kirsten Wise said the horticulture and viticulture sectors were critical in supporting the COVID-19 recovery.
“Our growers involved in developing this labour plan represent 60 per cent of the New Zealand export and domestic apple market and contribute over $1billion in export earnings to the country’s economy, so it’s vital we do everything we can to get our produce picked.”
Eddie Crasborn from Crasborn Fresh Harvest Ltd said growers want to work with government on a multi-year strategic partnership that allows them to provide meaningful permanent employment for New Zealanders.
“As part of this partnership, the industry is committed to creating 1000 permanent jobs for our communities.
“We are focused on helping New Zealanders into permanent work which we know is critical in supporting our shared social, community and economic development goals.”