Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman says substantial funding from New Zealand’s federal government will help support the growing horticultural industry in the Gisborne area.
The government has pledged NZ$1.8m to the project, which aims to grow the skills and capability of Tairāwhiti’s regional labour force.
“We are expecting significant growth in horticulture in the Gisborne area, with estimates of about 1,200 more people required in the next three to five years for production, related processing, and associated services,” Chapman explained.
“So to see this money made available to do things that will benefit horticulture, such as supporting workers to get driver and truck driver licences, supporting the seasonal labour force, and $150,000 towards a coordinator in the horticulture sector, is really significant.”
The funding comes after a forum on Gisborne’s workforce needs in October last year. Horticulture New Zealand participated in the forum, with its staff supporting local industry leaders in their call for a horticulture workforce strategy, a coordinator for the region, and integrated employment and training initiatives for permanent and season workers.
“Social development minister Anne Tolley and some of her colleagues attended that forum,” Chapman added. “They clearly listened to the needs of the region and have done something to ensure horticulture and other industries can reach their potential.
“This is a vital regional economy for horticulture and we want to see more New Zealanders, particularly young New Zealanders, in the Tairāwhiti region given the opportunity to explore long and rewarding careers in horticulture.”
The move comes after a number of New Zealand apple growers voiced their concerns over the availability of labour in the lead-up to this season’s harvest.