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.
MP for Tukituki Lawrence Yule has today launched a petition aimed at saving the project that would ensure the four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway which is at risk of not going ahead.
“The previous National Government had committed to a large number of important regional highway projects including the Napier to Hastings Expressway. These roads would have improved safety and travel times, better connected our regions and boosted regional economic growth,” Mr Yule says.
"However, Transport Minister Phil Twyford now says that a number of these projects are under review and in question time confirmed a safety review was being done on the Napier to Hastings Expressway.
“The biggest safety issue on this road is the congestion at peak times which would have been eliminated by the planned four laning.
“I am going to do everything I can to ensure that the four laning of the Napier to Hastings Expressway is completed as promised by the previous Government - it is one of the few routes that has all the land available and is ready for construction.
“Hawke’s Bay is booming and we want the Government to commit to the infrastructure required to support growth and jobs.
“The Napier Port also recently announced that freight volumes are expected to grow by 50 per cent to 2026 at the same time great efforts are being made to take heavy traffic off Marine Parade.
“To ensure the voice of the region is heard I have today launched a petition so the public can show the Government how important the project is. I will be taking the online and physical petition to present to the Government later this year.”
The petition can be found here.