The region's growers are welcoming a rule change from Hastings District Council which will soon make it easier to accommodate RSE workers' housing needs.

But while the move is "helpful" on its own, without Central Government input, it does not solve the problem, general manager of Yummy Apples Paul Paynter says.

"We have a very serious housing crisis in Hawke's Bay and that gets a whole lot more challenging when it is in the peak of the apple harvest. So, I think it is a sensible and rational move and it is good that the council is being proactive about it."

Last week, a variation to the proposed district plan was adopted by council's strategy planning and partnerships committee.

Advertisement
Hastings District Council has changed the district plan to make it easier to house the growing demand for RSE workers. Photo File
Hastings District Council has changed the district plan to make it easier to house the growing demand for RSE workers. Photo File

Council's discussions with stakeholders identified that small self-catering clusters on the sites where RSE workers were working was preferable, as well as a larger camp model in a central location from where workers would be transported to the sites.

The variation would allow larger seasonal worker accommodation to be built in this zone, and also enable accommodation to be built in the industrial zones of Omahu and Irongate, and other light industrial zones.

In addition, the variation would legitimise seasonal workers' accommodation in residential zones and cap household numbers to eight people.

Currently the proposed district plan does not provide for seasonal worker accommodation apart from in the plains production zone where it is a permitted activity up to 125sq m in gross floor area.

Paynter currently accommodates his 125 RSE workers in backpackers and houses in the city, something which is "not desirable" compared with a specialist facility.

However, at the moment, RSE allocations, and the decision, is made on a year-by-year basis, meaning more than 50 per cent of Paynter's workforce is either RSE workers decided in January or travelling backpackers.

"That's a very dangerous way to run a business, so it is definitely inhabiting growth and confidence in investment."

He says it costs about $25,000 a bed to build seasonal housing.

Advertisement

"[Specialist facilities] are what we should do and what we need to do because it minimises the effect on the broader community and doesn't steal housing stock.

"But in order to make that investment at $25,000 a bed, we need to know that we are going to fill those beds with some reasonable amount of certainty about what the structure of the RSE programme is in a five year time frame rather than year by year."

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the decision will make it easier for employers to build much-needed accommodation for our seasonal workforce.

"This will also help reduce the pressure on the existing rental housing resource, which is facing a critical shortage."