HortNZ welcomes Budget 2020’s support for the primary sector in the COVID-19 recovery

14 May 2020

HortNZ has welcomed the 2020 Budget, acknowledging the Government’s support for the primary sector in the COVID-19 recovery. 

'It’s great to see the Government investing in the key role the primary sector will play in New Zealand’s economic and social recovery, particularly as we have projects ready to run that bring effect to the Government’s objectives,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘The $19.3 million to place 10,000 people into primary sector jobs will help the sector meet growing demand for labour. 

‘There are some fantastic career opportunities in horticulture.  Our sector now brings in more than $6bn in export revenue.  This is thanks to increasing sophistication across plant varieties, growing techniques, harvesting practices, and sales and marketing.  Within these areas, there are an infinite variety of roles, from hands on, to technical to management. 

‘We’re really keen to see as many kiwis as possible join horticulture as part of New Zealand’s economic and social recovery.  At the same time, we will still need skilled workers from the Pacific under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, particularly as we will not have the backpacker community to fill gaps. 

‘The RSE scheme has played a key role in our industry’s expansion over the past decade, which in turn, has created hundreds of jobs for kiwis.  We do not see that situation changing.’ 

Mike says HortNZ has also welcomed the increased support for trades and apprenticeships training, and the Workforce Development Councils and Skills Leadership Groups that monitor the job market. 

‘The horticulture industry has its own network of six Career Progression Managers around the country.  This is a collective industry effort, involving local growers, district associations and the kiwifruit, apple and pear, summerfruit, avocado and vegetable product groups. 

‘Career Progression Managers act as an interface between young people, employers, schools and the tertiary education and training sector, and various government departments like the Ministry of Social Development. 

‘Our Career Progression Managers are eager to support more people into horticulture careers, so the news that there will be more training places and support, is great.’ 

Lastly, HortNZ is pleased that the Government is supporting growers to get their produce to market in new ways, in response to the disruption brought on by COVID-19. 

‘The last kilometre to market is the most challenging,’ says Mike.  ‘As a result, we welcome the Government’s support for development of digital platforms that will provide more ways for growers to connect with customers.

‘Having independent fruit and vegetable outlets closed during lockdown was particularly hard for many of our growers, given that these outlets account for 20-30% of produce sales.’