16 Mar 2010

Growers aim to change perceptions of industry

5:12 pm on 16 March 2010

Horticulturalists and viticulturalists want to improve the image of their industry in order to make harvesting fruit and cultivating vines more attractive as a career.

About 80 industry, contractor, training and union representatives met in Wellington on Tuesday at a workshop to start fleshing out the details of a new strategy to tackle labour problems.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer, or RSE, scheme has allowed growers to use Pacific Island workers as well as backpackers and local people, to fill seasonal labour shortages for harvesting and pruning for the past three years.

Growers are now turning their attention to attracting more highly-skilled New Zealanders into long-term career positions, and hope to achieve this through better recruitment and retention schemes.

Horticulture New Zealand and New Zealand Winegrowers say skills must be improved if New Zealand is to lift productivity and keep turning out quality produce.

However, they say the first step is overcoming unfavourable perceptions of the industry.

Horticulture New Zealand's chief executive Peter Silcock says the new strategy is looking at what they need to do to attract and train a more permanent workforce.

New Zealand Winegrowers chief executive Philip Gregan says the labour strategy is about shifting the focus from quantity to quality, and is an essential part of the wine industry's sustainable production programme.