“The Government’s dismal failure to be flexible and pragmatic about immigration to support the primary sector means hundreds of millions of dollars of losses for apple, wine and other growers is a near certainty,” says ACT Primary Industries spokesperson Mark Cameron.
“That a scheme of financial inducements to get people off the dole and into the fields has resulted in an increase to the workforce of just 54 is the cruel reality of what happens when this Government says it’s coming to the rescue.
“ACT has been on the farmers’ side from the beginning.
“When they were saying many more Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme workers needed to be brought into the country we said, quite right.
“When the industry identified appropriate accommodation for managed isolation close to their operations and even roped in the local health authorities to help run them we said, why on earth not?
“And what did the Government say? A big fat no. They said if growers paid better the workers would be found. Well, the Government offered to pay relocation and accommodation for the unemployed and found only 54 people prepared to pick.
“It’s now too late to find the 11,000 people the sector estimates they’re short of – the picking season for the bulk of New Zealand’s crops starts now.”