[21 January/Stuff]

Recent reports that there is a shortage of people to plant the trees required by the Government’s one billion trees programmes reflect a view amongst many New Zealanders that it is not worth taking on casual roles according to worker advocates. Pay rates in the North Island are up to 60c a tree, or up to $400 a day if workers plant a tree a minute over 10 hours. Worker shortages have also been reported in the meat, horticulture and pastoral farming sectors. At the end of last year the Government lifted by 1750 the number of overseas workers allowed in for seasonal work under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme. But First Union general secretary Dennis Maga said many of the industries struggling to find workers had previously been staffed by international students, where numbers have dropped significantly. Jessica Berentson-Shaw of The Workshop think tank, said many people decided it did not make sense to come off the benefit for short-term work. She noted people weigh up the entire wellbeing of them and their families and conclude taking a casual role in the primary sector may not leave them better off economically over the longer term once all the costs of moving, travel to work, accommodation and stand downs from benefits have been accounted for.  She adds that there is also the mental wellbeing of a person and their family to consider, suggesting expectations on people to take transient short-term work often overlook the importance of the overall wellbeing of a person and their family and the costs to them and society of it. The suggestion is made that as a country we need to find good work that works for people if we want to improve productivity and collective wellbeing over the long term.