Fruit hanging on trees well into a cold and frosty Hawke's Bay winter provides a visual reminder of the struggle growers had finding pickers over the last season.
New Zealand Apples and Pears CEO Alan Pollard said it was the third year in a row a labour shortage had been declared in Hawke's Bay, and it was time to have a conversation about solving the issue.
"We can't continue to have an annual conversation which is what we've been doing in the past, we've got to have much more long-term solutions.
"That is the focus.
"We're working with Government on what we call a long-term workforce development strategy.
"The idea of that strategy is to give to industry more confidence in labour so we can continue to invest."
He said the strategy covers multiple aspects, including encouraging New Zealanders into the industry, providing backpacker and day-release prisoners with the opportunity to pick fruit, protecting and expanding the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.
He said the scheme also included looking at new technology coming into the industry, and how that may change the way the industry works.
"What we are working on is how do we work with Government now to have immediate confidence that through those programmes we can develop a sustainable labour supply."
He said they do not quantify how much of the crop was lost due to lack of workers, but anecdotally it may be more than some years.
Seasonal worker shortage maintains grip on Hawke's Bay
"Indications are that it might be a bit more than last year but to be honest we haven't quantified it at all."
Pollard said for all the setbacks, the season had gone well.
"The markets seem to be behaving really well, we seem to be getting some really good value in the markets, so you'd have to say it was another good season."
Over the season, which runs from over late summer and autumn, other growers echoed Pollard's thoughts.
In April, Paul Paynter, General Manager of Yummy Apples, told Hawke's Bay Today there needed to be a better system.
He said the best solution was the RSE scheme, but it needed to be changed to be fit for purpose.
"We have to have at least a model where we can say the number will go up and down, here's the criteria, if unemployment goes up your numbers are going to get cut by this much."