Roughly 300 people have come off benefits in a week in Hawke's Bay in a bid to seek out a decent pay packet during the apple picking season.
Growers still say they don't believe every apple on the region's bulging trees will be picked between February and May, but Wednesday's Pick the Bay employment expo in Hastings showed glimmers of hope.
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst , who was at the expo at Toitoi - Hawke's Bay Arts and Events Centre said the industry was attracting workers.
"About 300 people came off of benefits last week to go into the industry in Hawke's Bay," she said.
"That's exceeded government targets - there's a job for everyone here."
Hawke's Bay's unemployment rate as at January 22, 2021 was 7.7 per cent of the working population, up 1.9 per cent on the same period in 2020, according to the Ministry of Social Development.
A total of 1000 RSE workers are also expected to arrive in the region for the picking season next week.
With a steady stream of people walking through the expo, Hazlehurst said the Hastings District Council organised it to support and help fruit companies get enough people to harvest the region's crops this year.
"A huge part of our GDP comes from our horticulture sector and it's the backbone of our economy and we need to support in every and anyway we can," she added.
Thornhill Contracting managing director Richard Bibby said the university and school students were fantastic at helping out on the orchards over the holidays.
"We would've been in such a hole without them, they just wanted to work," he said.
Now that schools are back for term one and universities are starting up again, valuable people have left the Hawke's Bay's rows of trees behind.
Bibby said with more RSE workers coming to Hawke's Bay from overseas and Marlborough they should be able to manage.
"We'll be short on numbers for what we normally have, but we've got everything in place for our existing clients, we'll be able to get their pick off we feel," he said.
But as contractors who usually have the odd day or two to help on other orchards, Bibby said there won't be any space for extras.
He said the season is going to be really tight.
"I'm thinking positively but I just don't think we'll get every apple picked."
Englishman Matt Pearson, who has spent the last 18 months in New Zealand on a working holiday visa, was at the expo looking for work in a Hawke's Bay orchard.
"We've been in Hastings over the last few weeks and heard that there is a lot of work here," Pearson said.
"Obviously the government is looking to improve the situation with the picking and they've kept extending the visa - we're more than happy to be here and carry on working while we can."