High physical demands, long hours, a lack of stability, low wages and high living costs.

If it was a job advertisement, would you apply?

That's one of the key questions to arise in the wake of the Ministry of Social Development declaring an official seasonal labour shortage in the Bay of Plenty this week for the first time in more than a decade.

The industry is struggling to get workers for the harvest - and pay rates, and other factors are being touted as key reasons for the shortage.


Twelve hundred workers are needed as the sector nears the main harvest season. Twenty million more trays of kiwifruit need to be collected.

Industry groups and businesses say the labour shortage is the worst in years and a lack of available workers - especially backpackers and international students - and the region's low unemployment rate is to blame, not pay rates.

However, Priority One's Annie Hill says a proportion of those unemployed are not well prepared to start work and jobs in the kiwifruit industry can be physically demanding and not very highly paid.

"If those on the minimum wage are taking home $540 a week and housing costs are $350-$400 a week, that doesn't leave much for other living expenses."

Hill says global kiwifruit prices have increased, which could result in higher wages to help attract more workers to the industry.

Of course, it's disappointing some people collecting an unemployment benefit are unwilling to take up jobs - regardless of pay rates. It's far better, in my view, to be working.

A job is more than a pay packet - it provides a sense of self-worth, and future employers are more likely to favour a candidate who has shown a willingness to find work.

However, if the industry is enjoying the benefits of a bumper crop and there is a risk that there might not be enough hands to gather the harvest, then the industry should, in my view, assess pay rates, so workers also share in the success.

It also stands to reason that if more money is on offer, more people will be interested in working in the industry.