With half of all Hawke's Bay's apples still waiting to be picked, the Government is extending the region's seasonal worker labour shortage to give it more time to find enough workers to pack seven million apple boxes.
Although more than 300 extra apple pickers have come forward to help lessen Hawke's Bay's apple-picking crisis since the Ministry of Social Development declared a labour shortage on March 12, MSD East Coast regional commissioner Annie Aranui said the region still needed more.
The declared labour shortage was due to end on April 6 but had been extended to April 29.
"Where an industry so important to this region has a clear and immediate need, we back them. We're continuing to proactively work alongside the horticultural sector in Hawke's Bay to look at the crops, when they will be ready to harvest and what workers and support is needed to make that possible, and how we can help.
"We have placed a huge number of people into work so far. Since October last year, in the East Coast region alone, we have supported nearly more than 1100 jobseekers into industry vacancies."
Since a labour shortage was declared in Hawke's Bay more than 300 jobseekers had been connected with the horticulture industry.
"The weather conditions this summer, with more heat and rain, has seen a bumper crop produce bigger volumes of larger apples. Although we're providing all the people we can to help with seasonal work opportunities through Work and Income, more are still needed."
Mrs Aranui said the remaining 50 per cent of crops would be ready for harvesting soon.
"Industry have informed us that heavy crops take longer to mature and the time needed to pick them needs to be extended to account for that."
About 14 million cartons of apples will be packed this year in the Hawke's Bay, which is an additional two million cartons compared to last year.
Hawke's Bay Fruitpickers Association president Lesley Wilson said grower were "very grateful" for the extension but the region was still short of a "significant number" of backpackers.
"Growers are still struggling but every little bit helps.
"We are still managing but the next couple of weeks will be critical."
When the labour shortage was first declared, orchards in the region were in need of about 400 people more than usual.
By declaring a labour market shortage all growers within the Hawke's Bay area will be able to employ fruit pickers who are not necessarily New Zealand Jobseekers, and are on visitor permits.
However, Bostocks labour resources manager Vikki Garrett said while inquiries from backpackers had been flowing in, those inquiries were not coming to fruition.
"Last week we had maybe seven people sign up and they were predominantly locals. So, as far as backpackers coming out of the woodwork - that hasn't happened."
Ms Garrett pointed out that apple pickers needed to pick three bins a day to "break even" with the national minimum wage - but a good picker could pick between six and eight bins a day.
"Then they will be earning around about the $800 to $1000 a week mark."
People can apply for a variation of conditions at Immigration NZ's website where they must pay a fee and complete an application for a variation of conditions or a Variation of Travel Conditions form accessible from: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/documents/forms-and-guides/inz-1020-application-for-variation-travel-conditions-april-2016-fa-web.pdf
New Zealanders can contact the labour team at PickNZ's Hastings office in Stortford Lodge.