Minister Lees-Galloway to review seasonal worker scheme

Labor problems at New Zealand’s Hawke's Bay orchards

The New Zealand government has promised a review of its seasonal worker scheme. It is a response to claims it isn't doing enough to address a worker shortage in the horticultural industry. National's Hawke's Bay-based horticulture spokesman Lawrence Yule has been calling on the government to declare a seasonal worker shortage over the 2019 picking months.

Yule has described the current situation around the region as a "perfect storm" with a bumper apple crop possibly meaning fruit will be left on trees to rot. A declaration would allow tourists to be put to work.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said there were plans to review the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (which allows orchards to bring in temporary migrant workers) in 2019, and he has heard support from industry to do so: "It's fundamentally a very successful scheme that has helped to support the success story that horticulture has been in recent years."

But Lees-Galloway said that it was time to review the 11-year-old scheme. "But both employers and unions have raised areas that they see as opportunities to improve the RSE scheme."

Yule told Hawke's Bay Today he supported the review, but said there was a problem right now the Government was not addressing: "Growers are telling us right now they want every tool available to them to harvest what is a brilliant crop. You can't get to the end of week one and say, 'We've got no workforce, please declare a labour shortage'. You actually need to declare that in advance."


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