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The Government needs to listen to the horticulture industry and urgently expand the RSE scheme to bring much-needed pickers into regions right across New Zealand, National’s spokesperson for Horticulture, Lawrence Yule says.

“Media reports that Kiwifruit growers are requesting a change to immigration settings to cope with an unprecedented labour shortage should not be ignored,” Mr Yule says.

“This is a multi-billion dollar industry crying out for some practical Government support so that it can future-proof itself to meet its 10 year growth plan. That plan includes major expansions to planted areas for apples, grapes and kiwifruit.

“The Ardern-Peters government campaigned on slashing immigration and that’s already biting the regions where it hurts.

“The Kiwifruit industry alone needs 8000 pickers to pick and pack its $2 billion crop each season. Recently I was in Hawkes Bay with National Party leader Simon Bridges where local apple growers said they’re short of 2000 pickers.

“The previous Government worked closely with the horticulture sector in the Hawkes Bay to better understand its growth prospects and labour requirements.  It was also successful in a number of initiatives to ensure New Zealanders were at the front of the queue for the growing numbers of jobs. 

“The RSE scheme introduced in 2007 currently allows 11,100 temporary workers into New Zealand for seasonal work like fruit picking. The industry says it urgently needs that cap extended by at least another 2000.

“The message from the sector is clear – more labour is required than can be sourced domestically and the Government needs to ensure, as the previous Government did, that fruit is not left to rot on the ground.

“The Coalition government needs to realise that tourists and back-packers are not a stable supply of labour – we have an industry that is crying out for a sustainable form of migration and an extension of the RSE scheme is the most viable option.

“That the industry is carrying out its own survey to provide the Government with information about its current problems speaks volumes about the need.

“I support Horticulture New Zealand’s call that the Government needs to look at immigration on a regional basis rather than dictating that overall numbers be slashed,” Mr Yule says.

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