6 Aug 2015

Focus on growing apple, pear industry

3:01 pm on 6 August 2015

Growing the country's apple and pear industry and using New Zealand and overseas workers to do so, was the hot topic at the Pipfruit Industry Conference this morning.

Samoa Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, opening the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission

Samoa Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, opening the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission Photo: RNZI / Monica Miller

Growers, packers and exporters are in Wellington for the annual two-day conference.

They have been discussing the challenge of balancing the industry's demand for labour, while meeting the Government's requirements of using New Zealand workers first.

The Recognised Seasonal Employment scheme began in 2008 and allows the temporary entry of additional workers from overseas, mainly the Pacific Islands, to help with planting, picking, packing and pruning in the horticulture and viticulture industries.

Ministry for Social Development spokesman Carl Crafer said the more industry and government worked together, the better the outcomes.

"What tends to happen is a lot of industries actually put their hand up not when they're planting or building something, they put their hand up saying we need people when its bearing fruit or ready to go into production," he said.

"That doesn't help somebody like me trying to prepare people, and it doesn't help MBIE (Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) from a policy perspective trying to get people ready for those opportunities, so the more advanced warning we get ... the better we are to prepare people for it and if we've done as much as we can, and we're happy that employers have taken the right attitude ... then there won't be any issues from a policy perspective to stop the ongoing growth and actually trying to encourage industry to do that."

More than 1000 seasonal workers come from Samoa, and Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi is attending the conference.

Tuilaepa said the scheme allowed workers to earn far more money than they would be able to in Samoa.

He said seeing the money brought back, and what it could do for communities, made people line up to join.

"The impact is great. A lot of these people that went back with money were able to build new homes, improve their old fales, some bought taxis and operator businesses, others have improved the education of their children, there have been community projects that have been built from money contributed by those who came, and other have been able to be the usual possessions of modern day living - a television, a car, a refrigerator, a washing machine."

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