Thursday, December 9

Producers are nervous about labor shortages despite the imminent arrival of CSR workers


The arrival of seasonal workers starting next week gives growers some certainty, but they fear that next season will remain a big challenge.

CSR worker in a Hawke's Bay orchard.

A CSR worker in a Hawke’s Bay orchard.
Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades

Seasonal workers arriving from the Pacific Islands next week will be able to skip MIQ and go to work during their isolation period.

Vaccinated workers from Vanuatu can arrive starting next Monday, while those from Tonga and Samoa will have to wait until Tuesday, October 12.

Workers will complete a seven-day period of self-isolation and take tests on day zero and day five, all while working at their work sites.

Thornhill Horticultural Contracting is placing workers at its exclusive 300-bed hotel in Hastings, and its general manager, Nick Bibby, said the operation would be under a strict alert level 4 work environment.

“Workers will be able to come and go from work and that’s it, and when they are at work they will not be able to interact with anyone – everything will be done remotely with masks and everything else from it.”

He said there was little risk as they came from Covid-free countries.

“They will work inside their bubble, and no one outside of their bubble will be able to go to them, just like, I guess, if you’re in an MIQ facility and you work out on the exercise yard.”

He still wanted more clarity on the government’s long-term outlook.

“We hope to get a little more around the long-term bubble between your countries and the CSR workers; we are going to need a lot more workers in February to pick the apples.”

New Zealand Apples and Pears CEO Alan Pollard said it was good to be certain, but feared next season would still be a challenge for the workforce.

“CSR is one part of the equation, but backpackers are another, and there are less than 5000 in the country right now and then they have access to work-ready New Zealanders and when you look straight through the economy where everyone is screaming for workers, the ability to access them is severely restricted. “

Hawke’s Bay has had some of the highest Pasifika vaccination rates in the country, with 88 percent of the eligible population receiving their first dose.

The Cook Islands Community Center in Flaxmere has been a hub for Covid-19 vaccines in the Hawke's Bay Pasifika community.

The Cook Islands Community Center in Flaxmere has been a hub for Covid-19 vaccines in the Hawke’s Bay Pasifika community.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

His Pacific health manager, Tofilau Talalelei Taufale, said they started the conversation early, person-to-person.

“We have different pressures between our different groups, so being able to talk to them face to face was essential in this.”

Tofilau said he was still waiting for more information about the second shot by the RSE workers.

“From a local level, I assume that we are preparing as a Pacific team to be agile at the established high levels; I mean the Ministry of Health, the various government departments and working in partnership with the governments of the Pacific Islands.”

Tofilau Talalelei Taufale, Hawke's Bay DHB Pacific Health Manager.

Tofilau Talalelei Taufale, Hawke’s Bay DHB Pacific Health Manager.
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Kainga Pasifika supports Pasifika families in the region and their leader Tevita Faka’osi said it was good to have more Pasifika in the area.

His organization has been supporting CSR workers who had to be left without work in New Zealand during the colder months with food packages funded through Whānau Ora. He hoped that support could continue in the future.

“When [the] CSR came here. I was so happy that they came here to help us. But they also need help when they come here to take good care of them. … we are so blessed to have Pacific Islanders here to help pick the fruit. “

Kainga Pasifika leader David Faka'osi

Kainga Pasifika leader David Faka’osi
Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Up to 14,400 CSR workers typically pass through New Zealand each year and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said the pilot plan would test systems for a broader reopening of borders.

Horticulture New Zealand said that in 2019, exports from the horticultural sector reached an estimated value of $ 6.4 billion.


www.rnz.co.nz

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