Seasonal work vacancies hard to fill
By JOANNE CARROLL in Cromwell
The Southland Times
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2009
Central Otago orchards and vineyards are still struggling to fill seasonal work vacancies.
Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said he was looking into developing a scheme to “top up” the labour market with workers from countries other than the Pacific Islands.
He was in Cromwell yesterday meeting with growers about the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme. The current scheme is geared towards Pacific states and is capped at 5000 places a year.
Mr Coleman said New Zealanders would be given first preference for jobs, then Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers, but there would still be gaps to fill.
He envisioned a scheme where workers could come to New Zealand to work for accredited employers who could prove they could not recruit workers from New Zealand or the Pacific states.
“My priority is to make sure the local horticulture and viticulture industry gets the workers it needs,” he said.
Mr Coleman visited Molyneux and Webbs orchards and Mt Difficulty winery.
He said the growers told him the scheme had been working well, particularly with Vanuatuan workers.
Central Otago jobs centre Seasonal Solutions brings about 230 Vanuatuan workers to Central Otago every year under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.
Seasonal Solutions director Basil Goodman said it was important the minister met growers and workers first hand.
“It's a good opportunity to show him what the scheme is doing for local growers,” he said.
With the recession and unemployment rising, growers needed to use “surplus Kiwis” before hiring workers from overseas, he said.
However, Vanuatuans would be given priority over backpackers.
Central Otago growers needed 7000 workers annually.