With Hawke's Bay in the midst of a bumper apple and pear season, the Ministry of Social Development has declared a seasonal labour shortage across Hawke's Bay.

East Coast Regional Commissioner Annie Aranui said the declaration was for the March 12 until April 6 period and followed discussions with leaders from the pipfruit sector and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Forecasts expect the peak harvest season for the Hawke's Bay pipfruit sector will be short and sharp and expected to last 21 days.

Fourteen million cartons of apples were forecast to be packed this year in the Hawke's Bay, an additional 1.3 million cartons on last year.


Since October 2017, the Ministry's East Coast region has placed 820 jobseekers into the horticulture industry.

"We will continue to support jobseekers still facing unemployment to enter the horticulture industry by providing work brokerage support, training and upskilling opportunities," Aranui said.

"We are running specialised seminars to identify and refer jobseekers to vacancies."

The last labour shortage declaration for all of Hawke's Bay was made in 2010 when the unemployment rate was at 6.4 per cent. The current rate is 5.6 per cent.

New Zealand Apples and Pears supported the labour shortage declaration for Hawke's Bay and chief executive Alan Pollard said the organisation was working closely with the Ministry of Social Development.

A major job recruitment drive across the region, including a public campaign by NZ Apples & Pears, Hawke's Bay Fruitgrowers Association and PickNZ, provided only modest numbers of workers who have been immediately placed into suitable work.

Pollard said the region's apple and pear industry was at full capacity, harvesting this year's crop.

Hawke's Bay Season Labour Group Chair Gary Jones said the strong Hawke's Bay economy, and low unemployment, meant the industry had to compete for workers.


"This will now enable us to access as many available seasonal workers as possible to help harvest our fruit crops in Hawke's Bay."

The declaration of a seasonal labour shortage allows overseas visitors, who already hold visitor permits, to gain permits for working on orchards and vineyards.

"Once the season is over, employers will be looking to offer permanent jobs to suitable New Zealand workers."

The industry was growing approximately 300 permanent employment opportunities a year to manage growth.