The Government has promised a review of its seasonal worker scheme in response to claims it isn't doing enough to address a worker shortage in the horticultural industry.

National's Hawke's Bay-based horticulture spokesman Lawrence Yule has been calling on the Government to declare a seasonal worker shortage over the 2019 picking months.

Yule has described the current situation around the region as a "perfect storm" with a bumper apple crop possibly meaning fruit will be left on trees to rot.

A declaration would allow tourists to be put to work.


Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said there were plans to review the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (which allows orchards to bring in temporary migrant workers) in 2019, and he has heard support from industry to do so.

"It's fundamentally a very successful scheme that has helped to support the success story that horticulture has been in recent years."

But Lees-Galloway said that it was time to review the 11-year-old scheme.

"But both employers and unions have raised areas that they see as opportunities to improve the RSE scheme."

Yule told Hawke's Bay Today he supported the review, but said there was a problem right now the Government was not addressing.

"Growers are telling us right now they want every tool available to them to harvest what is a brilliant crop.

"You can't get to the end of week one and say, 'We've got no workforce, please declare a labour shortage'.

"You actually need to declare that in advance."


Lees-Galloway said the Government had raised the cap on RSE workers twice since he was minister.

"The most recent increase was actually the second largest increase to the cap."

He said while in Hawke's Bay unemployment numbers were falling there were still many people looking for work, in particular young people.

"We really want to work with the horticulture industry to strike the right balance, so they've got access to the people that they need but we're also making sure people get the opportunity to reap the rewards of a successful economy."

He felt growers could to do more to make their industry attractive to New Zealanders.

"That's around wages, it's around conditions, it's around career opportunities.

"I think there is certainly very strong agreement that more needs to be done to actually market the industry to New Zealanders, to demonstrate that it's more than just a summer job, that there's actually career opportunities."

He said he did not want to go into whether a seasonal worker shortage should be declared this, saying it was up to the Ministry of Social Development.

MSD's East Coast Regional Commissioner Annie Aranui said the ministry was working with the industry as part of the solution to meet the labour market needs.

To declare a worker shortage, the ministry needed evidence of harvest prediction and increased labour demand.

"The industry has told us they are expecting an increase in production and will be able to give us a clearer picture when their crop estimates are due in the next couple of weeks."

She said MSD works with orchardists throughout the year to help New Zealanders into work.