Food giant Heinz Wattie's has confirmed the loss of 70 jobs at its Hastings plants.
It's now looking to fill hundreds of temporary summer positions as part of its annual seasonal recruitment drive, with a new recruitment company that promises to prioritise locals.
A spokesman for Heinz Wattie's said it would need 700 seasonal workers in Hastings over the peak summer processing period, and had contracted company Kelly Services to do the hiring.
Heinz Wattie's is the country's largest processor of seasonal fruit and vegetables.
The Hastings plant processes a wide range of crops including beetroot, tomatoes, peaches, plums, pears and boysenberries.
The company announced in March it was looking to reduce staff numbers at the main King St site by 40 people, and another unknown number at its Tomoana Rd site.
It said the 70 redundancies that came out of that process were all done on a "completely voluntary basis", and had no relation to seasonal roles.
E tu union manufacturing and food industry coordinator Phil Knight said while the union was sad to see any redundancies, in this instance, the company had "made the best of a bad situation".
"The company achieved its desired result, in terms of downsizing the workforce. So those who left did so without being forced out of the workplace."
The union had no concerns for any immediate staff reductions in the future.
"We will be continuing to watch with interest to make sure that seasonal roles and any new roles are filled initially, primarily with locals as opposed to migrant workers or those from out of town."
Kelly Services NZ Hawke's Bay branch and operations manager Caroline Kermode said she was "extremely excited" to be working with Heinz Wattie's.
It was working through a transition process with Heinz Wattie's' current on site workforce, to ensure a smooth continuation of employment, Kermode said.
Kelly Services was looking also at how it could improve transport options to get potential workers to work, she said.
"We are looking to the local community to fill the available roles and we will be advertising on the radio, in community papers, in supermarkets, contacting work brokers, and Winz etc to ensure the word gets around," she said.
In March, New Zealand's Commerce Commission granted clearance for Heinz Wattie's, which is ultimately owned by its Nasdaq-listed parent company Kraft Heinz, to acquire the food and instant coffee business of Cerebos Gregg's.
The Commerce Commission's decision is subject to a divestment undertaking from Heinz Wattie's.
The divestment will include licences for the Gregg's brand for the New Zealand supply of red sauce (tomato sauce and ketchup), barbecue sauce and steak sauce, and the F Whitlock & Sons brand for the supply of Worcestershire sauce in New Zealand.