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Years ago, when I was involved in orcharding in NZ we had no schemes in place allowing itinerant workers to come in and work on farms, orchards, and vineyards. We needed pickers, I advertised, 80 odd people rang me, I whittled it to the ten I needed and three turned up. Enough said.

Annually, Australia take 57,000 itinerant odd workers, NZ around 12,000. AU is big on backpackers and do take some Pacific Islanders, Kiwis take a lot of Islanders.

So both Governments have spent a lot of time and effort introducing training schemes on everything from tractor driving, to pruning, to dairy farming. They’ve tried building apps to link workers to vacancies and they’ve offered cheap accommodation. Now Australia is offering a $2,000 carrot for Kiwis to travel to AU for work. But they still have to get there, live and accommodate themselves and isolate coming back. And who does this help when NZ is woefully short? AU also has some initiatives under way but the headlines don’t suggest things are getting any better. Fact is Kiwis and Ozzies don’t want the work – mainly it’s too hard, also unemployment isn’t high enough and those who are unemployed live too far away from where the jobs are.

South Australia was looking to restart the the Seasonal Worker Programme but they’re now back in lockdown.

And here’s the latest from the NZ Immigration Minister… In the current Covid-constricted travel environment, employers need to look at how they can offer pay and conditions that attract workers already in New Zealand. I think he’s referring to the 6,000 itinerant workers trapped in NZ from last season but NZ needs double this number and his plan is to pit employer against employer in a scrap for workers. Guy’s a genius.

Meanwhile the season has started or is about to and you can read of growers leaving summer fruit on the trees, apples remaining unthinned and sheep not shorn. Simply put, growers and farmers are bleeding through the eyes, right now, and this has been a problem that was signalled in March. But then you’ve got the Islands where tourism has been decimated, and Covid is low. This could get very messy.

 

Tracta | Champions of Agribusiness - Rural Specialist

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