Recently, a report was released, named "Picking Cherries". It was carried out by The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) for the Productivity Commission. Its authors expressed doubts on the economic value of the overseas workforce to Central Otago’s horticulture and viticulture sectors. However, industry experts have labelled it as flawed.
A draft version was flagged by New Zealand Apples and Pears in December for raising points, such as about the economic value of recognised seasonal employer (RSE) workers from the Pacific, the organisation felt it needed to be challenged.
New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Allan Pollard was in Central Otago when the report was released. On Wednesday, Pollard said the draft prompted his organisation to meet the commission to express concerns. However, those concerns had not been reflected in the report released this week. Pollard: "It’s a pity the NZIER don’t leave their offices. It still says they [RSE workers] are low-skilled, low-value migrant workers."
The labour of RSE workers had spinoffs for the wider economy in terms of productivity, right through the volumes of fruit harvested for export, he said. "They [RSE workers] are highly skilled, highly productive, and do the jobs New Zealanders can’t, and won’t, do."
"Rather than expanding our workforce, which is not there anyway, this serves the opposite effect and it almost points the finger at the growers themselves — everyone is really disappointed. It’s gut-wrenching."