Alan Pollard, Chief Executive, New Zealand Apples & Pears
Not surprisingly, a large focus for NZAPI remains on seasonal labour. Since my last note, matters have moved at pace.
The government announced that 2,000 RSE workers will be able to return to NZ in accordance with the largest border exemption given to date. There are strict conditions attached to the approval including:
- Must be experienced workers i.e. have had at least 1 season previously in NZ
- MIQ costs must be met by the employer(s)
- The workers must be paid for the two weeks that they are in quarantine
- All workers must be paid at least the living wage ($22.10) including while in quarantine
- Workers (including those already in NZ) must be kept fully utilised while in NZ i.e. there has to be a plan for sharing the workers across the 7 month period.
While I agree that some of the conditions don’t make commercial sense, these are the conditions that we must work within. NZAPI will stand up the manifests for each of the 13 or so flights, and for the MIQ spaces. We are working with summer fruit, kiwi fruit, wine, master contractors and Horticulture NZ on a fair and equitable allocation methodology. We are communicating with employers as often as we can (recognising that this is moving very fast) and as data is needed.
The NZAPI Board and staff travelled to Wellington last week – we do this once each year. On the first day we met with the MPI senior leadership team on a range of topics, including a snapshot of the industry today, what our prospects and opportunities are, and the challenges that we face. We discussed an apple/plant sector strategy and agreed that industry and MPI need to work closer together.
On the second day, the NZAPI Board and staff met with the Horticulture NZ Board and some team members. We do this annually to discuss matters of collective interest and address any matters arising. During our meeting we were joined by Vangelis Vitalis (MFAT) updating us on the global trade environment; Viv Rickards of MSD (and members of his team) to discuss the MSD response to the labour shortage; and Ruth Isaacs of Immigration/MBIE (and members of her team) to discuss the Immigration/MBIE response to the labour shortage. On the third day members of the NZAPI team attended the Horticulture Forum, and contributed to discussions on industry representation on various government groups, the merits (or otherwise) of a horticulture strategy, a Q+A on the seasonal labour issue and a debrief on the lock downs earlier this year.
There is a huge amount of activity continuing in R&D, crop protection, market access, biosecurity, trade and capability.
2020 has been very tough year, and 2021 is shaping up to be just as challenging. We acknowledge the work that HBFA continues to do for growers, and value the relationship and engagement that has developed between our organisations.
We wish all growers a very merry Christmas and look forward to working with you all in 2021.