4 May 2012

Horticulture faces labour shortage

7:41 am on 4 May 2012

The horticultural industry in Canterbury is bracing itself for a loss of workers due to the Christchurch rebuild.

Horticulture New Zealand says skilled workers such as forklift drivers and packhouse operators are being offered up to $7 more an hour to join construction teams.

The national co-ordinator of seasonal labour Jerf van Beek says he's heard that 22,000 people will be needed for the rebuild over the next few years.

He's setting up a regional labour governance group to ensure Canterbury's approximately 700 growers are not left in the lurch.

Mr van Beek says 11 regional groups work with all stakeholders, and in the other regions it's been possible to solve labour shortage problems which are generally seasonal.

In Canterbury, he says, there's a shortage of key staff in fields and packhouses, such as fork lift drivers and those who operate the packing plants.

Mr van Beek says this hasn't happened in other regions because those people were mainly in place and there was no draw for them to go elsewhere.

He says the group includes grower, Government and industry representatives, and that collaboration will be the key to understanding how to retain staff.