The Ministry of Social Development has declared a seasonal labour shortage in the Bay of Plenty and is extending the seasonal labour shortage in Hawke's Bay.

In Bay of Plenty, the shortage is for a six-week period between April 15 and May 27.

The declaration is being extended an additional six weeks in the Hawke's Bay until May 20.

The Ministry said in a statement that declaring a labour shortage allowed visitor visa holders to apply for a variation of conditions and enabled people to work in the respective regions.


Forecasts expected the peak harvest season for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay to run until about May and the Ministry said there was currently a worker shortage of about 3800 people.

The Ministry's group general manager of client service delivery, Kay Read, said declaring or extending a labour shortage was a "last resort" once all other levers to find enough workers had been exhausted.

"A declaration also has the effect of highlighting to New Zealanders, who may be willing and able, that there are job opportunities available for them," she said.

Read said seasonal labour efforts involve industry, local and central government agencies working closely together.

"We recognise an improved commitment by the horticulture and viticulture sectors to better manage their workforce requirements," she said.

"Our focus remains on connecting New Zealanders to sustainable work and seasonal work is a step towards achieving this. We will continue to refer jobseekers to available vacancies across all industry sectors."

Bay of Plenty Regional Commissioner Mike Bryant said there was a number of MSD initiatives partnering with industry to help prepare and place jobseekers into seasonal work.

"We have a dedicated horticulture employment team of MSD work brokers who liaise year-round with employers in the sector and understand the industry needs," he said.


"They support employers and workers with training, transport, accommodation, equipment and more."

Since July 2018, MSD had placed more than 1000 people into jobs in the local kiwifruit industry, nearly 500 of them since January 2019; with many more prepared to start work once the main picking period was under way.

"These roles are an opportunity for people seeking to get back into the workforce and can open the door to other things," Bryant said.

"Many seasonal workers experience a variety of work in a range of locations and are able to stay employed year round using their diverse skills."

East Coast regional commissioner Annie Aranui said there was still a worker shortage in the Hawke's Bay with up to six weeks of the main harvest left.

"We've been closely monitoring the shortage, reassessing the supply and demand weekly as the season progresses," she said.

Aranui said later variety apple crops had matured earlier than anticipated, and there was still about 60 per cent of the overall crop left to pick.

"We're still working hard to fill positions and will continue to support New Zealanders into sustainable employment opportunities available in the industry and we will support industry as they seek to develop a future workforce plan."

From January to March 2019, 375 people have been placed in horticultural work in the Hawke's Bay and more than 1400 have come off the benefit and gone into work.

As of today, overseas visitors can apply to vary the conditions of their visitor visa to allow up to six weeks of seasonal work in kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) said there was a current shortfall of more than 1400 vacancies in the Bay's kiwifruit industry, which was expected to increase to 3800 at harvest's peak around mid-April.

There was a shortfall of 1200 vacancies at the peak of harvest in 2018.

NZKGI chief executive Nikki Johnson said the industry had been working hard to attract labour for this year's harvest, but early signals indicated the number of vacancies had reduced.

"However, it is vital to our industry that there is enough seasonal labour for harvest, and we currently don't have enough people to pick and pack the intended crop," she said.

Between January and April 2019, MSD had placed nearly 500 job seekers into the kiwifruit industry. Despite this, more workers were still needed.

More than 90 per cent of this season's total kiwifruit crop was yet to be harvested. It was forecast that a similar amount of fruit was required to be packed this year in comparison to last year.

This included an increase of 12 per cent of SunGold kiwifruit which required packing in a short period of time.

Johnson said employing New Zealanders was a first priority, especially Kiwis who lived in regions with orchards and packhouses.

A University of Waikato report forecasted the kiwifruit industry contribution to the Bay's GDP will increase 135 per cent by 2030 to $2.04 billion and require 14,329 new kiwifruit jobs.