Campsites are filling up and workers are sleeping on residents' floors as seasonal kiwifruit labourers scramble for affordable accommodation in Te Puke.

This comes as the Western Bay District Council announced increased monitoring of freedom camping areas during the kiwifruit season and said those breaking the local bylaw would be fined $200.

Western Bay Mayor Garry Webber said the monitoring would help with policy making as the council was undertaking a separate "analysis" with the kiwifruit industry.

He said the industry needed to appropriately house seasonal workers.


"It's a kiwifruit industry issue ... you can't treat an industry in isolation. We've got to make sure our regulations will work across all industries."

Packhouses were permitted by the council to accommodate up to 75 people on site and the industry was pushing for an increase to 250, he said.

Kiwi Corral manager Wes Archer said the hostel was full for the next month and some workers were forced to get accommodation in Pāpāmoa or Whakatāne.

"It's a crisis … we are turning away 20 to 30 people a day," he said.

Te Puke Holiday Park leaseholder Eric Clark said the park had a capacity of about 200 and was almost full.

A limited number of additional cabins were available but the accommodation needed to be matched with amenities to cater for more people.

He hoped to increase capacity to 250 for the next season.

Pick BoP general manager Phillippa Wright said accommodation was "really tight" and she knew of a keen picker who decided to go back to Auckland after she could not find housing, she said.


EmpowermentNZ trustee Judy Abrahams said she had five seasonal workers staying at her home and two others had been sleeping on the floor before they found other accommodation.

She said it was part of the housing crisis in Te Puke and some people chose to sleep in their cars to save money.

A kiwifruit orchardist, who wished to be unnamed, said he currently had four people boarding in a two-bedroom unit on his property.

The tight accommodation "definitely" contributed to the labour shortage as people were more likely to leave if they were in a van, he said.

It was vital that the workers were looked after so they returned next year, he said.

"We need them and they need us."

Resident John Campny said there were "vans everywhere" in Te Puke and the cemetery carpark was full.

He said the road he lived on was troubled by campers who littered and used the roadside for unsanitary purposes.

"They've got no toilet and go in the shelter belt."

Seeka human resources officer Nikki Gallagher and Trevelyan's managing director James Trevelyan said a property boom in Te Puke had led to a housing crisis separate from the tight short-term accommodation and this did not contribute to the labour shortage.

Seeka's Gallagher said the council and kiwifruit industry needed to collaboratively come up with a solution.

She said approved accommodation at a range of places, including backpackers, houses, lodges and purpose-built accommodation, was sourced in advance for Seeka's recognised seasonal employment (RSE) workers.

She did not know much about the situation of non-RSE workers but said it would be difficult for them, and said the labour shortage was not connected to the tight short-term accommodation.

Trevelyan said its staff were asked whether they had a spare room to house a worker and the packhouse had an on-site campsite and organised accommodation at beach houses or other houses empty over winter.

"We always ask whether staff would enjoy having a boarder, or a couple of boarders ... we try to connect to willing parties really."

Eastpack chief executive Hamish Simson did not wish to comment further than it had "sufficient accommodation for its workers".

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated chief executive Nikki Johnson said in a written statement the organisation had no "empirical data" showing an accommodation shortage.

The organisation was working with employers regarding increasing accommodation for seasonal workers, including the development of onsite accommodation, she said.

A 2017 report showed 1230 additional beds were planned by the kiwifruit industry by 2023.

Picker perspective

German backpackers Kevin and Christina have found it easier to find work than accommodation.

They are living in a campervan at designated freedom camping areas until finding a room.

They probably would have moved on otherwise.

As well as being restricted to parking in each designated spot three nights in any four-week period, showering after work had been an issue.

Before finding a room, they had asked to park in a driveway and tried several campgrounds which were all booked for the season.

Christina said she did not understand the three-day restriction when there was such a great need for workers in the area.

A worker from central New Zealand, who wished to remain anonymous, was also living in a van and working night shifts, which made sleeping during the day difficult.

She was offered a cabin outside a house through a work colleague but said she could not afford the rent.

She admitted her van was not self-contained, which meant she was not supposed to be using freedom camping sites, but said she had no other option.

She had come to Te Puke for the kiwifruit season for a number of years and said the accommodation shortage happened every season.