October has arrived and with it a mixed bag of weather, from continuous on and off rainy days, the occasional frost, hail, and some warm days seeing plenty of activity from our bees- welcome to Spring!
We welcome the news that Government is allowing ~14,400 RSE workers from Samoa, Tonga and Vanuatu back into New Zealand. Compulsory MIQ has been waved (14 days, costing around $7,000 per person) and our RSE workers can now arrive at Auckland International Airport and be transported directly to their place of employment. They must live and work in their own bubbles and function as if they are in Level 4 restrictions and undertake COVID tests on day 0 and day 5 of arriving. The RSE program is a fantastic opportunity not only to support our industry, but to assist our Pacific neighbours who are experiencing significant economic hardship due to the lack of tourism in their own countries arising from COVID restrictions.
All working holiday visas and the Supplementary Seasonal Employer (SSE) expiring prior to 31 December 2021 have now been extended for a further six months. The conditions of both visas allow holders to work in any employment, in any sector. With a total pool of ~8,500 visa holders currently in New Zealand, I encourage our growers, especially those who historically employ backpackers, to do what you can to recruit and retain them for the upcoming harvest.
I recently met with MSD who are doing all they can to help our industry find the staff we need for the upcoming thinning and harvest season. I also met with George Rarere from NZAPI to hear some of the new initiatives around employment and retention. We intend to hold a meeting towards the end of the month where both organisations will share with our members various labour initiatives, how they work and what opportunities are available for us, as growers to access. Many of our growers have not worked with MSD before so I see this as very timely with things about to get very busy. We will notify you shortly of a meeting time and date.
Growers are also encouraged to post their vacancies for seasonal work on the newly-developed PickNZ job board. This site now hosts seasonal roles that were formerly posted on the Opportunities Grows here and Work the Seasons website.
I believe collaboration between growers working together and with their supply groups is what will help us get through the next six months. As growers let’s pull together – be robust in recruiting our staff – let’s think outside the box – we can do this – let’s keep talking to one another and being willing to share staff around- this will be key for us winning the labour battle.
We have our annual fishing competition coming up on 1 November –everyone’s welcome, it’s a great day out, always well attended and we have an incredible line-up of prizes- thanks to our sponsors and the fishing committee for their support again this year. It’s been a challenging year and this is a good opportunity to relax and catch up with fellow growers. See you there.