Kiwifruit harvest contractors will be audited next season as the industry takes a tough stance on exploitation of workers

Zespri communications manager Oliver Broad said it was one of a number of initiatives that aimed to raise standards and drive compliance.

It implemented a pilot programme for labour contractors last year and "this will be rolled out to all harvest contractors in the coming season, covering labour law and worker welfare", he said.

It was part of an industry programme on Global GAP, an international initiative on safe and sustainable agricultural practices.


"We will be extending our contractor registration process this year to include all labour contractors and sub-contractors rather than just harvest contractors."

An independent organisation would carry out the audits to a Zespri standard, he said.

"We are extending the existing process to include all on orchard labour contractors, and also extending the scope to include worker welfare factors, as the pilot did."

Contractors that formed part of the pilot were very supportive - and even volunteered to undergo audits, Mr Broad said.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc chief executive Nikki Johnson said the new system would provide confidence that employers were meeting their legal obligations to workers.

"While we believe that the vast majority of employers are currently operating well, we need a system that gives us this confidence and identifies those that are not."

Compliant contractors would gain a compliance certificate, and growers would be required to ensure that any contractor they used had a valid certificate, he said.

"This enables growers to be confident that their contractors are looking after their workers."


Kiwifruit grower Neil Treblico said it was a great initiative because as an industry we tend to see too many incidences when contractors have not done the right thing by their workers"

"I understand it's not only in the kiwifruit industry that we have this issue so we need to clamp down and get rid of if we possibly can."

Qualitycrops managing director Nathan Kidd said it was a positive step for the industry to prohibit the exploitation of workers.

"Fair pay for a fair day's work is what we as a nation represent. We also need to shift the mindset and understand that fair paid workers, along with quality standards, can only be beneficial to the industry through producing, harvesting, packing and selling higher quality fruit and therefore maintaining the premium nature of NZ exported fruit."

Finding a balance without hampering growers with increasing compliance obligations without any added value was extremely important.

"However, I remain optimistic that technology will overcome the compliance cost issue for all parties in the supply chain, perhaps even driving further cost out and ultimately increasing returns for growers."

MBIE labour inspectorate regional manager Kevin Finnegan said it had a focus on the horticulture and viticulture industries for a number of years, with regular operations targeting breaches of minimum employment standards in orchards across the country - including in the kiwifruit industry.

"We have encouraged the kiwifruit industry to take greater ownership over the breaches of employment standards found in their orchards, and in their supply chains. With the industry looking to begin to self-audit and check their supply chains, we believe this is a good step in the right direction.

"Over the coming years, we will continue to keep a close eye on the industry to see if they turn their words into action, raise the levels of compliance in their orchards, and do their part to preserve New Zealand's reputation as a fair and equitable place to work and do business."