Pacific workers make an impact on NZ horticulture
Pacific workers brought to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme are seen as vital the growth of horticulture in this country.
A seasonal employment contractor says New Zealand's horticulture and viticulture industries wouldn't have grown as much as they have in the past decade without the involvement of Pacific island workers.
In New Zealand's region of Hawke's Bay, there's an increased demand for Pacific workers contracted through the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme
The general manager of Focus Contracting Ltd, and chairperson of New Zealand Master Contractors, Linley King, told Johnny Blades it can be gruelling work and there's more to it than just picking fruit.
LINLEY KING: We bring the workers in for our clients and, depending on what our workload is, as to who gets the RSE workers and who gets the... well, everyone gets Kiwis, but we just organise the staff for our clients.
JOHNNY BLADES: How many Pacific workers do you bring in for the season?
JB: And they're doing stuff in viticulture and horticulture, is that right?
LK: Yes, and vegetable growing.
JB: A lot of people might think it's just apple picking, but there's more to it, you say?
LK: Yes, we do a lot of weeding of vegetable crops, we do planting of tomatoes and all sorts of different things - broccoli, harvesting beans, peas, sweetcorn and of course squash which is a huge, labour-intensive activity.
JB: This is really quite hard work, isn't it? This is stuff that not everyone is willing to do.
LK: No, and quite honestly, if you were given a choice you would probably choose not to.
JB: Because of the heat and just the physical demands of this kind of work?
LK: Definitely, both of those things. It's hard work and the problem is being able to work eight to ten hours a day as opposed to getting out, going like a bull at a gate and getting it done in two hours - that just does not happen.
JB: Is there a perception, do you find, that the Pacific workers are somehow taking New Zealanders' jobs? Is that a misperception?
LK: Well I don't know where the perception comes from but it is a misperception. Most of the New Zealanders who work alongside the RSE people are very aware of the value added that it gives.
JB: So it helps this industry to have the Pacific workers here, year in and year out.
LK: Definitely. You would not be able to grow as much as all those industries have grown over the last ten years.
JB: And is this the message that you get back from your clients, when workers come in and they come back season after season, it gets better and more efficient?
LK: Definitely. They like to have people.. they like to be able to relate to the boys, or girls. They like to be able to have and develop ongoing relationships. It's just the guarantee that they will be back again the following year or (there) are very few changes, helps them to manage their businesses a little bit better as well.
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