Bay of Plenty kiwifruit leaders hope up to 1750 extra migrant workers in New Zealand will alleviate the pressures of a critical labour shortage.

On Monday, the Government announced the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme cap would increase by 1750 to 12,850 workers nationally. How many of the 1750 could come to the Bay was expected to be released later this week.

Kiwifruit leaders have since heralded the increase as a triumph amid an "acute" labour shortage hampering the industry.

NZKGI chief executive Nikki Johnson said New Zealanders were the industry's first priority for picking and packing kiwifruit but the low unemployment rate made it difficult to fill available positions.


In Infometrics figures from March 2018, Tauranga recorded a national low of 4.4 per cent jobless.

Johnson said although the increase was welcome and would provide stability, "the industry still has the challenge of attracting the remainder of the workforce that we need".

There was sufficient resource to support RSE workers for the 2019 season but accommodation was an issue that needed to be addressed, she said.

Seeka chief executive Michael Franks echoed Johnson's concerns, saying infrastructure, pastoral care and support would need attention. However, Seeka was rapt with the extra workers which would help address the Bay's "acute" labour shortage, he said.

"It is an important release valve - but the demand for labour continues to increase."

Franks said the scheme was "incredibly important to New Zealand – an incredible success".

Grower Rob Thode said the extra workers were "very much needed" and he doubted the industry could survive if the RSE scheme was canned.

"We simply wouldn't meet our labour demands ... The RSE scheme is of huge benefit to New Zealand."


Thode said Kiwi labour was often not "work ready" which was an "enormous problem".

"Whether that's working drug-free, or showing up on time, or getting stuck in. I'm a kiwifruit grower who has really, really tried to work with New Zealand labour ... I don't want to have workers turning up late who don't want to get on with the job, simple stuff. I've really tried but some people, some just say 'nup' and leave, and that's their choice.

"RSE workers come with an attitude to work. They are absolutely brilliant. We have a fantastic relationship. Especially the ones from Vanuatu, they have hearts of gold. It's very much a win-win.

"They bring about so many jobs that wouldn't be there if it wasn't for that labour source."

Zespri declined to comment.