Central Otago's horticulture and viticulture sectors say there is room for improvement when it comes to recruitment — and it is due to juggling work demands with recruitment.
They said they did not have time to respond to every application because, faced with a dearth of workers, juggling work with processing applications was too much.
"We can't be online all the time" was the general reaction to New Zealanders who claimed they had applied and got no response.
The sector is worth $50 million to the region's economy with representatives saying they still faced labour shortfalls — and massive costs.
Alexandra-based Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby said there was a disconnect with how the work was perceived and getting people to fill the jobs.
"It is about timing and location. There's a lot of work in the Teviot Valley but it is about people who are registered for work and filling roles when they are needed.
"There's still some inconsistency there."
Mostly employers were too busy managing their crops to carry out effective recruitment, she said.
This comes after the Government announced it would allow up to 2000 Registered Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme seasonal workers into New Zealand from Pacific Island nations from January.
Those workers have to spend two weeks in managed isolation — paid by their employers at a cost of $4722 per person — and get the living wage of $22.10 per hour.
How those workers would be distributed was still a question, Axby said.
"There are thousands of people needed and it is just starting."
Grape Vision Ltd general manager James Dicey said the issue was the fact both horticulture and viticulture were perceived as unskilled.
"What's actually being said is the jobs are skilled and are productive."
To bring a "newbie" up to par with someone who had done the job, like RSE workers, took time, he said.
The RSE workers were deemed to be skilled and that put them above inexperienced New Zealand workers.
"The connection has to be made between people who are actually skilled and those who aren't."
Experience counted for a lot with the harvesting work.
He had refused employment to one person who wanted a week's work on the basis that person would not have learned enough to be productive in that time.
Ettrick orchardist and packhouse owner Con van der Voort said he believed the Government was to blame for the situation.
"They [the Government] are just playing with things. If their aim is to destroy the [horticulture] industry they are going the right way about it," Van der Voort said.
He echoed the sentiments of others and said his employees were "learners" and could not compete with skilled labour such as RSE workers.
Sunfruit Syndicate Limited Partnership shareholder Tim Paulin said he recognised the problem in applications and when those people were actually needed.
"We've had lots of people apply and we are doing our best."
Finding time to process applications and fill positions when they were needed was a challenge, he said.