Horticulture and viticulture growers are trying to be innovative and flexible in order to attract the employees they need to get through a worker shortage for the coming summer season.
There is an urgent need for local seasonal labour, with limited availability of overseas workers due to Covid-19 and 10,000 workers required to thin, pick, package and process the year's crop between November and April.
The industry has joined up with the Ministry for Primary Industries, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, Hawke's Bay District Health Board and the region's local government leaders to deliver a plan to the Government next month to resolve the situation.
Part of that plan includes a growers' employment expo and information session on Tuesday, November 10, through which they plan to showcase the summer work and career opportunities in the sector.
Recent graduates working at New Zealand Apples and Pears have developed a new Pick Tiki campaign to attract school leavers and tertiary students to the sector, with barbecues and activities for the workers planned throughout summer, as well as some time off in January.
New Zealand Apples and Pears capability development manager Erin Simpson said they are trying to reach students through their social media and website.
"On one side employers register for having places for students, and on the other side students register with what they're looking for and what part of the country they want to go to," Simpson said.
"Our hope is that students would get together in groups, maybe a carload or a vanload and travel to a particular region where they can work for a while, and then maybe go on to another region.
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"Once upon a time in New Zealand that was a really good thing to do over the summer, so it would be nice to get students back to that."
Xan Harding from the Hawke's Bay Winegrowers' Association said growers are thinking very differently about ways and means of hiring their staff.
"They know that expecting people to work six days a week, 10 hours a day is not going to suit many people and they're prepared to do whatever it takes to have the right person in their team - whether that be offering accommodation, transport, meals, training and upskilling and flexibility around work hours," Harding said.
"There are vineyards in Hastings employing retirees to help with thinning. They are thinking of every possible option to make sure locals are employed and their crops are well looked after."
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said more than 8000 permanent jobs in the region will be at risk if the fruit goes unpicked.
"Our horticulture and viticulture industries are extremely valuable to our region, contributing around $1 billion to our economy so helping with the seasonal labour shortage is a top priority of all of us," she said.