The rest of New Zealand could learn a lot from the success of Labour's world-class Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme in Hawke's Bay.
The great results we are achieving in the region through growing more long-term better paying jobs for locals, underpinned by the RSEs, should be heralded as a shining example for other industries to follow.
It demonstrates how Labour is prepared to listen and work with industry and develop targeted migration policy that can increase productivity and provide certainty of seasonal labour so the crop gets picked at its optimum quality and maturity, while also helping create better work opportunities for those who live in Hawke's Bay.
For me migration and creating work for Kiwis go together, and should not be looked at in isolation.
The RSE scheme has also become a very effective tool to gain greater leverage with helping improving employment conditions.
Today in Hawke's Bay we are seeing the industry really step up and take greater ownership for pastoral care for both their Kiwi and RSE workforce, along with supporting education opportunities so locals are ready and able to get new jobs as they come on stream.
Across Hawke's Bay we still have high unemployment at 7.9 per cent and a low skilled workforce. We also have one of the highest numbers of school leavers not in further training, education or work at 17.2 per cent, compared to 11.6 per cent for the rest of the country.
But, according to the latest from Statistics New Zealand if you look at Hastings at 6.8 per cent, we are starting to see our long term unemployment coming down which is being credited to our apple industry success.
We also have a strong and vibrant migrant community in Hastings who are helping make a very positive contribution towards supporting and growing our local economy and social wellbeing.
You only had to attend Hastings Blossom Parade to see our culturally diverse city and all our families and children enjoying themselves together.
I support migration that helps grow jobs for locals. This is why I am a huge supporter of the RSE scheme and all it has done and will continue to do for helping get our apples picked and growing better permanent jobs for Kiwis - which is what leads to lifetime success!
In the next five years Hawke's Bay's horticultural industry is projected to grow by another 20 per cent. This will require an increased supply of seasonal (both local and RSE) and permanent jobs.
So it is critical that we do everything possible to ensure this happens because our growers need certainty of seasonal labour during the harvesting season. We cannot risk leaving millions of dollars worth of apples rotting on trees and put our future billion-dollar export industry in jeopardy.
Labour recognises the value our RSE scheme brings to Hawke's Bay because horticulture is the lifeblood of the region. It is also an important part of New Zealand's international aid to our Pacific Rim partners.
We also know that the answer to sorting out core unemployment and addressing the challenges to get our young people into meaningful work is not a short-term job picking apples and then sending them back on the dole.
But if we can get all the apples picked, and extract the greatest return from the crop we will grow more fulltime jobs.
I've met plenty of people working in our apple industry who were once unemployed and who are now in fulltime work and loving their jobs, along with others excited about learning more and doing apprenticeships - both school leavers and adult students.
Some work in the orchard, others in packhouses, or in businesses servicing our growers.
They tell me the hardest challenge isn't the work, it's backing yourself and having employers prepared to give you a real go.
People in Hawke's Bay know this and so does Ngati Kahungahunu, who are now working together with industry on an exciting new project called HUA.
Together they have a target of getting 200 young people every year into meaningful work, which they say couldn't happen if we didn't have the seasonal labour support from our Pacific neighbours.
This is how targeted migration works, for the right reasons and while still in its early rollout, I am very excited about the future of HUA and where it will lead us.
I believe that what we have developed through the RSE programme, with the full buy-in of our apple growers, holds the key to the current immigration challenges we are facing as a country.
I openly welcome anyone to visit our industry in Hastings. I encourage you to meet with those on working in orchards and packhouses and talk to growers and iwi. Of course there is always room for improvement but we are changing the game.
This is how we can form the basis of delivering better and practical steps towards fixing the increasing mismatch in migration across other industries, so that more New Zealanders have a chance of getting a job.
■Anna Lorck is Labour's Tukituki candidate in next year's general election.