By Christian Fuller
The creation of 1000 jobs and increased pay form the basis of a new plan addressing the "critical" seasonal labour shortage in the horticulture and viticulture sectors in Hawke's Bay.
Following a meeting with Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi and industry representatives last week, Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and Napier mayor Kirsten Wise handed the plan to government, outlining ways to help the region post-Covid.
The action plan highlights the commitments employers are making, including the creation of 1000 permanent jobs in the next five years, increasing pay rates for workers and working to support people entering the workforce.
With 10,000 workers needed between November and April in the region, the plan also details the work the sectors are doing to meet the critical labour challenges, such as developing a long-term Workforce Development Strategy to support New Zealanders into full-time work in the sector.
Wise said the horticulture and viticulture sectors were critical in supporting the Covid-19 recovery.
"Our growers involved in developing this labour plan represent 60 per cent of the New Zealand export and domestic apple market and contribute over $1 billion in export earnings to the country's economy, so it's vital we do everything we can to get our produce picked," she said.
Hazlehurst said Minister Faafoi commended Hawke's Bay for being the first region in the country to deliver government a plan to help with the seasonal labour shortage.
Hawke's Bay Today has requested a copy of the report. However, it is not being made public until all parties involved are consulted as to what form the report is released in.
A spokesperson says the report could be expected in the "coming days".
Eddie Crasborn, of Crasborn Fresh Harvest Ltd, Hastings, said growers want to work with government on a multi-year strategic partnership that allows them to provide meaningful permanent employment for New Zealanders.
"As part of this partnership, the industry is committed to creating 1000 permanent jobs for our communities," he said.
"We are focused on helping New Zealanders into permanent work which, we know, is critical in supporting our shared social, community and economic development goals."
Yummy Apples general manager Paul Paynter said while higher pay means less profit for the growers, the plan is a positive for the sector.
"The revenue will be down and the wages will be up," he said. "We're anticipating 12 per cent wage growth for our harvest next year, and that might be conservative."
Paynter said while he was involved in initial conversations with Faafoi, he is yet to see a final outcome.
According to Hastings District Council, growers are also asking central government to provide space at quarantine facilities for RSE workers for the upcoming thinning and picking season, as well as approve a plan to accommodate returning RSE workers from Covid-free Pacific Island countries at a government-run isolation facility in Hawke's Bay.