The Hawke's Bay's apple industry says it is investing over $30 million into building more than 1500 new beds for Recognised Seasonal Employment workers, which they say is already helping fix the region's housing crisis.
Right now Hawke's Bay growers are awaiting the Government's imminent decision on whether the region will get an 1000 extra RSE workforce to help pick its $650 million apple crop in 2020.
RSE employers have been told by the Government they must show they can provide beds for the 5400 overseas workers they need in Hawke's Bay for next season.
New Zealand Apples and Pears manager of trade policy and strategy Gary Jones said the RSE scheme was becoming a win-win solution the region.
"We've listened and responded to the Government's challenge," Jones said. "Together we've developed a real partnership and genuine commitment to work positively with Government, which is helping the region out of a housing crisis while also growing our economy and thriving export industry."
Jones said this season millions of dollars' worth of apples were left rotting on the trees in Hawke's Bay. The Government declared a seasonal labour shortage for the second consecutive year. The new RSE beds, at an estimated value of $25,000 each, include onsite purpose-built accommodation, along with large-scale "fit for purpose" renovated existing sites.
There are already 1350 beds consented and over 400 more beds in the pipeline, he said.
When the project, which also includes upgrading existing accommodation, is complete it is expected that almost all the 5400 RSE workers needed in Hawke's Bay will be fully accommodated by industry, with no more need for rented houses in urban areas.
Along with helping place vulnerable New Zealanders into short-term accommodation, some are also being offered jobs working in the apple industry along with transport to work each day which is also part of the partnership, Jones said.
"The RSE scheme is putting more and more New Zealanders into fulltime employment and career pathways especially in new technology areas. But, we can't grow jobs if millions of dollars' worth of apples are left rotting on trees."
Yummy Apples general manager Paul Paynter said the investment in RSE housing was a good first step for the industry, which was in desperate need of some long-term planning.
"At the moment we run on a sort of year-by-year basis when it comes to how many RSE workers we need but if we had a plan in place to try and map out and better plan, it can be a great benefit to employers. It costs a lot to bring them over here but it's worth it because they are all good hard working people."