NZKGI New Zealand Kiwifruit orchard picking labour

New Zealand’s horticulture industry has welcomed the New Zealand government’s decision to raise the cap of its Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme to 16,000.

HortNZ chief executive Nadine Tunley said while the increase won’t benefit the apple, kiwifruit harvests that are currently underway, it was good news for the horticulture industry, long term.

“The increase in the RSE worker cap will give growers some hope for the future,” said Tunley.

“Growers are under incredible stress at the moment due to the severe shortage of labour that Covid has created. Some growers are saying they only have 50 per cent of the workers they need but are continuing to do everything they can, to get the fruit picked, packed and to market.

“RSE workers have been steadily arriving, which is a testament to all parties given Covid challenges and the Tongan tsunami. We hope to reach the current cap of 14,400 in time for this season, as the apple and kiwifruit harvests reach their peaks, and winegrape growers start winter pruning.”

Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor the increase would help to address the labour shortage hampering the sector.

“We’ve increased the cap for the 2021/2022 season from 14,400 to 16,000 so employers in the horticulture and winegrowing sector can access more labour to help with planting, maintenance, harvesting, packing and winter pruning. It will also help set the sector up for the next season,” O’Connor said.