Mike's Minute: Laziness to blame for fruit picker shortage

Author
Mike Hosking,
Section
Video,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 10 April 2019, 7:20AM

COMMENT

Let me toss a few numbers at you. First number is $23.50 - that's the average pay for an hour to pick kiwifruit. That number alone answers all those who have complained the money is no good. $23.50 is good money.

And instead of the annualised whinge-fest we go through in this country, it behoves us to actually try and drum up a few answers.

Visa issues might be part of the problem. I tried yesterday to explain to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern that there will be people here for holidays who want a bit of cash and easy work. Under their visitor visa they need to reapply, that takes time, too much time, they will ask themselves why they bothered.

We also have issues around migrants. They, of course, are the answer. They work hard, send money back home, it all seems successful. But despite that, we still want to try and employ locals. That's all fine, but getting them under a vine and picking seems to be an issue.

So what about those we pay to do nothing?

Here are more numbers: in the Bay of Plenty the under-utilised workforce is at 11.7 per cent - that's people who could or want to work more hours. The participation rate in the workforce is 70 per cent, that is from the working age population, which means there's 30 per cent doing lord knows what. Those on the Jobseeker benefit - that's people able to work, but not working - stands at 9500. Surely in there are all the hands you need.

Hawke's Bay is another area with an official labour shortage. Under-utilisation is at 11.6 per cent, participation rate 68 per cent, number on the Jobseeker benefit is 4600.

In Nelson, where the apples need picking, under-utilisation is at 12.5 per cent, participation rate is at 69 per cent, those on Jobseeker benefits is 1300.

How many more numbers do you need? The number on Jobseeker benefits would solve your problem alone. And the Jobseeker benefit, as we have mentioned before, has ballooned by 11,000 since this Government has been in office.

People able to work, registered to work - but just can't find work. Well we have found work for them.

15,000 of them in three regions with work needing to be done, why aren't every single one of them out and into the fields? Because we are slack, lazy, can't be bothered, or more interested in putting energy into excuses, as opposed to action.

Yes, the fruit industry has issues, transport, location etc. But all these people are local, they're local, unemployed, and available for work. So who isn't joining the dots?

$23.50 an hour for a day's work, who doesn't want that?

The industries we talk of produce billions for the country in export returns. This is too big a deal to yet again, for another season, and seasons after that, to throw our hands up and pretend there is nothing we can do.

The numbers are, in part at least, a tangible answer. It's the willpower that's absent.

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