Heather du Plessis-Allan: Let the fruit pickers in

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Thu, 22 Oct 2020, 7:54PM

Heather du Plessis-Allan: Let the fruit pickers in

Author
Heather du Plessis-Allan,
Publish Date
Thu, 22 Oct 2020, 7:54PM

How long are we going to keep pretending Kiwis are going to fill tens of thousands of fruit picking jobs?

I would hate to be in the horticulture or viticulture industry right now.  These growers must be desperate.  They are facing the prospect of watching huge amounts of their fruit go to waste because they can’t pick it.  The boss of Summerfruit NZ reckons it’s already too late to stop huge losses and about 20 percent of crops already is going to be lost.

The problem as we know, is they’re short of possibly as many as 10,000 international workers.  But, apparently, they just need to hire some Kiwis.

Just lift pay rates, and Kiwis will take the jobs, right?

Come on.  Is that really the problem?  From what we’re hearing workers can earn close to $30 an hour if they work fast.

Isn’t the problem really that this work is seasonal. It's gig work. It’s not year round.

So it’s always only ever going to attract the likes of students, backpackers, and international workers.  People who only need short stints of work.  people who don’t mind hostel-like accommodation because it’s for a short period of time.

That’s not going to work for kiwis with families is it? You can hardly move your family to Hawke’s bay for a few weeks’ worth of work can you?

It’s a nice idea that we can plug 10,000 fruit picking and other RSE jobs with Kiwis who are looking or work or on the dole.

But it’s not realistic. It’s fairy tale stuff.

I think we need to stop pretending we can force ever reach a place of perfection where every fruit picking jobs is filled by a happy, smiling Kiwi and the sun always shines.

It’s not going to happen.  Let’s get those international workers in before these growers lose too much more fruit.