“It was heart-breaking to watch a media conference of Hawke's Bay orchardists today revealing, as one put it ‘anxiety and desperation beyond belief,’ at the situation the Government left them all in this season by refusing to let more Pacific Island workers into the country,” says ACT Immigration spokesperson Dr James McDowall.
“But one thing became clear as the group stood in front of apple trees with more apples rotting on the ground than on the branches, this season is lost – at a cost of between $600 million and $1 billion to the New Zealand economy.
“Now they need a plan for how many Pacific Island workers can come in and when they can come in.
“And they need that plan soon. Orchard maintenance has suffered and decisions need to be made quickly or next season’s harvest will be negatively impacted too.
“They made it clear that despite meeting Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi every two weeks they’re still none the wiser about what a horticultural worker immigration plan looks like, despite the workers they need being in COVID-free countries.
“This lack of clarity is having a huge mental and economic toll on the sector, not just here but in the Pacific Islands.
“The growers reminded the Government that it was the Helen Clark regime that initiated the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme that gets crops harvested on time and in the best condition for export, but delivers much needed capital back to poor Pacific countries.
“Both groups are crying out for action. The Government was warned that its belief that local workers would replace RSE workers was unrealistic, and so it proved to be.
“Now isn’t the time for ideological defensiveness on the Government’s part – it’s time to get this important industry back on its feet before more damage is done.”