The Bay kiwifruit industry will need to find 14,329 more workers in the next 12 years as the sector continues to boom and break records.
One local business leader says ''it is arguably the biggest success story for economic development in the region'' while others believe the major challenge would be finding people and providing affordable housing for those who took up seasonal jobs.
Zespri head of grower relations Dave Courtney said the industry was on track to more than double global sales to $4.5 billion by 2025.
Globally kiwifruit was an undeveloped category at just 1.5 per cent of the globally traded fruit market so there was plenty of room for growth, he said.
Read more: Zespri: Kiwifruit crop increase could lead to labour shortage
First kiwifruit shipment of the season leaving Tauranga as harvest begins
Kiwifruit industry needs to spend a cool $1 billion to keep up with hot demand
Zespri had also employed more staff, and figures show numbers had jumped from 350 in the 2015/16 annual review to more than 500 in 2017/18 - and it now exported to nearly 60 countries.
A report by Waikato University Professor Frank Scrimgeour completed last year said worker projections were very strong in the Bay of Plenty.
It had 10,762 fulltime equivalent jobs at that time and predicted there would be an additional 14,329 jobs by 2030 - alongside a 135 per cent increase or $2.4b, GDP contribution.
Priority One projects manager Annie Hill said the kiwifruit story ''is arguably the biggest success story for economic development in the region''.
''Research and development in the creation of the Gold3 cultivar saw the industry not only recover from Psa, but grow in a way that had not been envisaged previously. The industry is predicting huge growth in export markets over the next seven years, largely due to the quality of the fruit, its health benefits, Zespri's extremely strong international brand and the growth of the more affluent middle class in countries such as China and India.''
However, the challenge would be filling the jobs required to support growth of the sector, she said.
''But there are also opportunities in technological advancements that will see the horticulture industry become increasingly automated."
New Zealand Kiwifruit Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said while the kiwifruit industry's projected contribution of GDP for the Bay of Plenty was very positive the growth of the industry would require careful planning by stakeholders.
''Industry growth will also require significant capital investment by post-harvest operators. Stakeholders must take into account that kiwifruit is a primary industry and has been shown to be susceptible to disruption such as Psa and the weather.''
Tauranga deputy mayor Kelvin Clout said there would be amazing employment opportunities and meaningful career paths in all phases of the supply chain from researching to growing, harvesting, packaging and post-harvesting.
''Any person who is currently unemployed would be well advised to make the most of these employment opportunities.''
The growth would increase utilisation of multiple-owned Maori land to generate jobs and income for local iwi with extra throughput and revenue for the Port of Tauranga.
However, it could put challenges on infrastructure combined with a shortage of affordable housing for kiwifruit workers, he said.
Meanwhile potential increase in uses of chemicals such as ''Hi-Cane is a concern to many in our community''.
Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber said it had a rural committee in place that was working closely with the kiwifruit, transport and sector industries and the port.
''We don't want to do anything that will hamper or hinder the industry because this is what is the heart and soul of our economy.''
He said they would re-group after the harvest in August to discuss issues including housing for transient kiwifruit workers.
''How do we house them and look after them when they are here so it's a good constructive industry that looks after its staff.''
By the numbers
• This year's New Zealand-grown crop is expected to be about 20 million trays or 70,000 tonnes higher than last year.
• In 2017 there were 123 million trays of New Zealand fruit sold and 102 million of those trays came out of Bay of Plenty soil.
• This season, 86 per cent of Green and 76 per cent of SunGold is from the Bay of Plenty.
• New Zealand's 2500 kiwifruit growers collectively own about 13,500 ha of orchard.
- Source Zespri