Shortage of Seasonal Labour Declared for BOP Kiwifruit Industry

NZKGI Media Release - 07 May 2018

Declaration is for 7 May until 8 June 2018. During period of declaration overseas visitors can apply to vary the conditions of their visitor visa to allow six weeks of seasonal work in kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI) supports the Ministry of Social Development’s (MSD) declaration of a labour shortage for the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty. The declaration announced today is for the period 7 May until 8 June 2018.

The Bay of Plenty has now entered its peak period of the kiwifruit harvest and the declaration of a labour shortage will help fill an estimated 1,200 vacancies over the rest of the main harvest period.

NZKGI CEO Nikki Johnson says, “this year we have experienced the perfect storm of a larger harvest coupled with a deficit of backpacker and international student seasonal workers. We estimate that there are 1,200 vacancies currently available for picking and packing kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty”.

Kiwifruit industry employers have been working closely with MSD to place New Zealanders in vacant roles. Between January and April 2018, MSD has placed 1,032 job seekers into the kiwifruit industry but have been unable to fill all positions. The declaration of a seasonal labour shortage allows overseas visitors, who already hold visitor visas, to apply to vary the conditions of their visas for working in kiwifruit in the Bay of Plenty.

To date half of this season’s total kiwifruit crop is yet to be harvested. It is forecast that over 20% more trays of kiwifruit will be picked and packed this season in comparison to the 120 million trays last year.

NZKGI works in the areas of labour and education to attract and retain skilled workers to the kiwifruit industry. In association with MSD and kiwifruit employers, NZKGI organised a recruitment expo last Saturday to connect job seekers and employers.

“Attracting New Zealanders to participate in the harvest is our first priority and over 60% of our seasonal workforce comes from New Zealand. However, during the peak of harvest, other sources of workers such as those from the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and backpackers are required. The industry is in an exciting growth phase and to achieve this, we must have sustainable seasonal labour. The industry will be having a robust discussion with Government around increasing the number of workers available under the RSE scheme as well as other avenues to meet demand during harvest”, says Nikki.

NZKGI has been analysing current and future labour demands of the kiwifruit industry and expects to have the results available in the coming months. This information will help formulate and execute a plan to deal with industry growth projections. It is forecast that the kiwifruit industry contribution to the Bay of Plenty’s GDP will increase 135% by 2030 to $2.04 billion and require 14,329 new kiwifruit jobs.

The kiwifruit industry is an important contributor to the local Bay of Plenty economy, currently contributing $867 million to the regions GDP and employing 10,762 FTE in the year 2015/2016. The last declaration of a labour shortage for the kiwifruit industry was made in 2004 when the unemployment rate in the Bay of Plenty was 4.8%. The current unemployment rate is 5.1%.

Click here for instructions on how to apply for a variation of conditions on a visitor visa.

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