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A day in the life of…

14 September 2021

Picking asparagus near Levin in 2020.

Kia ora koutou katoa

The past few weeks have been a bit of a roller coaster for the industry.  Lockdown has created obvious challenges, both short and more long term. 

Short term, the industry has had to accommodate greater health and safety requirements as well as greater challenges around getting enough staff for each day’s work.  For growers affected by the Auckland borders, there was uncertainty around how the testing of essential workers crossing the boundaries would work and until this Thursday we still won’t know entirely how that will play out. 

More long term, the outbreak of the Delta Covid variant in the community resulted in three Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) flights from the Pacific needing quarantine being deferred.  However, the Government announced last Friday that quarantine-free travel for RSE workers from Vanuatu, Samoa and Tonga would get underway in October, albeit about a month later than originally planned. 

Things for our industry during lockdown have been challenging without doubt.  But at least we have been able to continue operating.  And as Spring approaches, I feel things are looking better than we might have expected. 

Challenges around labour remain.  That’s why our industry must do everything it can to attract New Zealanders, and find ways to work together to ensure we make the most of available capacity and skills.  The new PickNZ and GoHort job boards will help here. 

The Government’s priorities around climate change, the environment and freshwater are starting to gather pace again.  Where we have issue is with the pace and order of all the changes proposed.  We also have issue with the disconnect between what central Government is proposing and what local Government has in train, particularly around the myriad of plan changes slowly – in some cases over that past decade – making their way through the system at great cost to affected growers.

The Hort NZ environment team is well aware of your challenges.  They continue to advocate on your behalf.  They are also planning workshops and information days for growers to participate in.

 

Reflecting on the past weeks

Over the weekend, I had the chance to reflect on the past few weeks.  I think it is fair to say that the horticulture industry’s daily discussions with the Ministry for Primary Industries, as a representative of the Government, paid dividends in terms of being able to continue to operate as an essential industry and having influence over what that operation would look like. 

As I have said before, the horticulture industry’s relationship with the Government is critical, if we are to have influence over the things that have the potential to make or break growers, in terms of medium to long term prosperity. 

These relationships take time, commitment and effort.  It is unfortunate for us that a senior MPI staff member, Penny Nelson, who has been a great advocate of our industry. is leaving MPI.  However, we wish Penny all the best in her new role as Director General at the Department of Conservation, which is a true endorsement of Penny’s capability and calibre. 

 

Not over yet

While it might seem obvious, as a country, New Zealand is not out of the woods yet with the current community outbreak of the Delta Covid variant.  So, let’s spare a thought and offer support where we can to growers still affected by the Auckland borders. 

I also think that as an industry, while I hope it doesn’t happen again, it is important for us to plan for how we would respond to another outbreak, particularly if it came at the height of any one of our harvest seasons. 

While Spring always creates a sense of a new and better day, as growers and our industry know, this could change at any point. 

Ngā mihi nui

Nadine Tunley
HortNZ Chief Executive