[23 November/Rural News]

The kiwifruit industry will welcome more Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers for next season, as part of the government granting the horticulture industry approval to recruit 1,750 more short term workers from the Pacific Islands (increasing the total to 12,850 nationally). New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI) CEO, Nikki Johnson, said the industry would still have to work hard to recruit the best employees. In 2018, the Bay of Plenty, where most of the kiwifruit industry is based, took about 2000 of the national total of 11,100 RSE workers. Details are still being worked out but it looks like in 2019 Bay of Plenty can expect about 300 more RSE workers. RSE workers make up fewer than 20% of the seasonal workforce in kiwifruit. Ms Johnson noted that while NZKGI considers there is sufficient resource to support the RSE workers for the 2019 season, accommodation is an issue that needs to be addressed as the industry continues to expand. Labour shortages were declared in several regions over the last picking season, with the pipfruit sector facing challenges recruiting staff around the country. NZ Apples and Pears expects there to be an extra 100 new jobs in Hawke’s Bay every year to 2025, not including the need for more seasonal pickers. Bostock New Zealand owner John Bostock welcomed the RSE increase saying this will provide the ability to create more permanent full-time jobs for NZ’ers, which will help resolve some of the social issues in the wider community.