Māori Kiwifruit Orchard anticipate worker shortage

By Mānia Clarke

A Tauranga-based Māori kiwifruit orchard is taking action to attract more fruit pickers to address the shortfall of workers they are anticipating during harvest that starts in March.

Ngāi Tukairangi Trust Orchard trustee Carlo Ellis says they want to avoid loses.

Ellis says it’s about being ready for the harvest when the workers are few.

“We've just got to be creative, we can’t just sit back and be complacent on how the industry has been in the past. We have to look at new ways to engage people,” he says.

“Over the past wee while we've been advertising for people to apply for those and we've had a good uptake.”

The Bay of Plenty produces 80 percent of the region's crop. But every year orchards are faced with the same problem, not enough workers.

Employment Minister Willie Jackson says “Our people can't just leave their three or four kids and go fruit picking for six to eight weeks and then there's no mahi afterwards.”

“You know there's got to be some thought into what's happening with families? Is there an overall contract? Is there a contract after the six to eight weeks,” he says.

Ngāi Tukairangi Trust kiwifruit orchard was established in 1982, with an orchard in Te Puke and then Hawkes Bay last year.

They employ hundreds of seasonal workers each year.

“We've got a set of orchard managers that help us with that and the networks that our trustees have and across different orchards,” says Ellis, “Māori growers forum are really helpful.”

The trust will also join the Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) Scheme to employ pickers from the Pacific Islands.