Horticulture and drugs do not mix
Prime Minister Bill English got it right - horticulture and drugs do not go together. It’s simply a case of health and safety, for both the drug-taking workers and all the others they work around. Orchards and packhouses are machinery intensive; you need to have your wits about you, and you can’t do that under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Regional horticulture, and many of our employers, have innovative programmes taking unemployed New Zealanders and giving them work within the industry. The most successful programmes are those that screen the potential employee and then give them some skill-based training; the screening is used to establish whether or not the potential employee likes working outside in what can be a very physical job. There also needs to be some aptitude to learn how to do the job and to, hopefully, go on to further training. One of the screening issues is drugs, and if the potential employee is willing to give up drug-taking to work; up to 50% of those screened will not give up drug taking, and therefore a career in horticulture is not suitable for them.
This is a major issue for New Zealand society, and the Prime Minister is right to draw attention to it. Industries such as horticulture are doing what we can to employ Kiwis, but we simply can’t employ drug taking Kiwis.
The final point to note is that our seasonal workforce is exactly that - seasonal. None of horticulture’s offshore seasonal workers migrate to New Zealand. All the backpackers from around the world, and the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from the Pacific Islands, go home. They do not add to New Zealand’s population, they add to our productivity and make a significant contribution to our financial well-being.
- Mike Chapman, CEO
Mike Chapman was interviewed on NewstalkZB this morning, and you can hear that interview here.