Unlike the Bay of Plenty, Northland does not appear to be suffering a lack of kiwifruit pickers.

Regional spokesman Dermott Malley said that while the Bay of Plenty industry was saying it could use up to 1800 extra workers, there was a minimal shortfall in Northland.

Around 120 pickers were employed in the Whangarei area every season, most of them locals, with a few backpackers or other temporary workers. Kerikeri needed a larger workforce, and did have a shortage, "but not a significant number."

Many of those working in Kerikeri were Pacific Islanders, who were signed on under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, which allows the industry to recruit from overseas when there are not enough New Zealanders.

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Mr Malley added that the industry had "cleaned up where it needed to," with several unscrupulous contractors no longer in the industry. Last year Zespri, New Zealand's kiwifruit export body, introduced a licence register for contractors, through which they are audited for practices including pay, work and accommodation conditions.

"If you use an unlicensed contractor, that crop that was picked cannot be exported, and the kiwifruit market is overseas. That's no money off that crop," he said.

Traditionally in Northland, picking the shorter, earlier gold crop was paid on an hourly rate, while the later-ripening hayward crop was picked by contract.
"A good picker will be earning $25 an hour," he added.