Update from Kate Hellstrom 2 June 2021

I’m looking forward to meeting many of you at the Summerfruit NZ conference and AGM next week in Napier.

Regional visits

A few weeks ago I was in Central Otago visiting orchards and attending the SummerGreen meeting, (which had a big turn-out) so I had an opportunity to meet many of you there. I also attended the 2021 Central Otago Young Grower of the Year awards evening – it was great to see Jordan Carroll, the orchard manager at CentralPac, win this event. I wish Jordan the best of luck for the national event in September. Last week I was in Blenheim and met a few of the local growers there. Thanks to everyone who I’ve met so far, for sharing your insights and knowledge of the sector with me – I really appreciate your time and hearing your perspectives.

Focused on labour

My main focus remains on all aspects of the labour supply issue. The Horticulture Sector Labour Working Group – a collective of horticulture groups including summerfruit, kiwifruit, apples &pears, wine, Ethical Employers and led by Mike Chapman – continues to meet fortnightly with Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi. We have consistently requested extensions to the Working Holiday and Supplementary Seasonal Employment Visas, which are due to expire at the end of June. I know this is worrying many of you and your staff who are on these visas and want to stay – you need answers now. We’ve been emphasising this message to the Minister. We’re told that the details of a possible extension to these visas are being worked though, and so I hope there’ll be some positive news about this very shortly from the Government.

RSE news

There are also some RSE flights being organised, which RSE employers have been contacted about via a survey from HortNZ. There’ll be another survey circulated for arrivals to be scheduled in September onwards, and I’ll keep you informed as this work progresses.

2021-22 harvest season

The Summerfruit NZ Labour Working Group, with representatives from Summerfruit NZ, Apples & Pears, Wine, summerfruit growers, CODC, MPI and MSD, will meet later in June to discuss the lessons learned from last season, and continue to plan ahead for next season, including activities to attract backpackers from Australia.

Other activities

Additional matters I’ve been involved with recently include:

  • Plant Sector strategy – the Ministry for Primary Industries and the horticulture industry are working together to design a Plant Strategy – an integrated vision and prioritisation framework to focus on the future growth and resilience of the industry. I attended a workshop last week with chief executives of the other product groups and HortNZ, MPI, KPMG and other stakeholders, to discuss the framing of this strategy as a first step.
  • GIA Deed Governance Group and renegotiation of the Fruit Fly Operational Agreement which is starting to get underway.
  • Meetings with MPI, Plant & Food Research, horticulture product groups, and others.

Growing strong conference

See you at conference if you’re attending – I’m looking forward to an informative and fun few days.