Immigration for sustainable growth if no Kiwis available

28 Jul 2017


There is a straightforward formula for growing premium fruit and vegetables: suitable land + adequate water + skilled and reliable labour + the right cultivars = top-notch produce. There are more, but if one of those key ingredients is missing then growing food that attracts a premium is difficult.

Horticulture focuses on employing Kiwis first and foremost but, in some areas around the country, there are not enough New Zealanders to do all the work. For seasonal work in horticulture, like harvest and pruning, seasonal labour is used. This suits Pacific Islanders under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme and visiting back packers particularly. These people work for a few months and then go home. They do not immigrate to New Zealand.

For permanent work, if there are not enough Kiwis willing and able to work in horticulture, we need to turn to immigration to ensure continued growth of the industry. Both the National Government and Labour Party are recognising in their immigration policies that, to ensure growth can continue, there needs to be a flexible approach by industry sector and region. National has announced some flexible modifications to its immigration policy, including changes to the income band for mid-skilled migrants from $48,859 down to $41,538, regional and sector allowances being permitted, and, most importantly for horticulture, a review of the employment categories for migrants – called ANZSCO classifications. This adaptability is most welcome.

For both our permanent and seasonal workers, an immigration policy that is flexible and recognises regional and sector differences is what we need for sustained growth.  

- Mike Chapman, CEO