Strawberries risk rotting in the ground as result of late immigration decision - Pick Hawke's Bay
1023
post-template-default,single,single-post,postid-1023,single-format-standard,ajax_fade,page_not_loaded,,qode_grid_1300,footer_responsive_adv,qode-child-theme-ver-1.0.0,qode-theme-ver-10.1.1,wpb-js-composer js-comp-ver-5.0.1,vc_responsive
 

Strawberries risk rotting in the ground as result of late immigration decision

Strawberries risk rotting in the ground as result of late immigration decision

Strawberry growers say the Immigration Minister’s failure to announce a cap on seasonal workers will result the businesses that harvest in October and November, having to leave a large proportion of their crops rotting in the ground.

New Zealand Strawberries and other early season Kiwi produce risks rotting in the ground this summer unless the immigration minister moves quickly to approve overseas workers.

ACT leader David Seymour warned in Parliament on Wednesday that the country risked facing a strawberry shortage because Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway had been slow to make the annual government announcement on the number of additional workers he will allow into New Zealand for the harvesting season.

This Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme sets the number of workers that are allowed into the country on a short-term visa, to work in the horticulture and viticulture industries.

Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he had sympathy for growers and they could anticipate a decision quite soon.
TOM LEE/STUFF
Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said he had sympathy for growers and they could anticipate a decision quite soon.

It follows an open letter to Lees-Galloway on Wednesday from a dozen of the country’s biggest harvesting horticulture growers that rely on workers from overseas.

Seeking certainty for the sector, they asked the minister to act immediately, to save the businesses, jobs and livelihood of thousands of New Zealanders.

Seeking certainty for the sector, they asked the minister to act immediately, to save the businesses, jobs and livelihood of thousands of New Zealanders.

ACT Leader David Seymour said the country faced a shortage  because the minister didn't seem to recognise the practicalities faced by growers.
MONIQUE FORD/STUFF
ACT Leader David Seymour said the country faced a shortage because the minister didn’t seem to recognise the practicalities faced by growers.

“We can only assume that you are unaware that your failure to announce the cap will result in the horticulture businesses that harvest in October and November having to leave a large proportion of their crops rotting in the ground again, as happened last year, when you were late in announcing the cap.”

The letter states that the growers – who collectively employ 2500 people – were frustrated by many months of inaction by Lees-Galloway.

“Originally assured it would be July, then August, and now into September, growers are extremely disappointed that the minister’s review of migrant workers announced yesterday failed to address the issue of RSE workers or the CAP,” the letter says.

The letter signs off: “Yours in eternal hope and desperation”.

Seymour said the number of signatories under-represented the feeling in the sector because many feared reprisals from Immigration New Zealand for complaining .

The annual setting of the number of RSE employees was done too late for strawberries in particular, Seymour said.

If the cap is not set several months beforehand, the strawberry sector cannot benefit from it because it takes months to recruit, transport, and train workers once the number allowed for the year is known, he said.

“The minister doesn’t seem to recognise the practicalities faced by growers. They need to harvest fruit when they’re ripening, not when the Immigration Department gets around to approving visas for their workers.”

Lees-Galloway was out of touch with the practical reality faced by horticulturalists, Seymour said.

During Question Time on Wednesday, Lees-Galloway was asked on two occasions when he would announce the number of RSE workers. He replied: “Soon.”

He said he had some sympathy for the growers and their early season challenges.

“It is exactly one of the things we are going to explore as part of the scheme refresh, which is under way now.”

Lees-Galloway also told Stuff it was a decision that was before Cabinet and people could anticipate a decision quite soon.

After Question Time, he said the Government relied on good information from the industry, to make a decision and that only arrived in July.

Making a decision in months was “heroic” within Government Lees Galloway said. He said making a decision was a priority.

 Copyright Stuff