Update from Richard Palmer

Here's the latest news for members of Summerfruit NZ.

Annual General Meeting

Thanks to those who took the time to join the AGM either in person or by Zoom. I appreciate it was a little different, but overall it went well, and I want to thank you for your ongoing support of Summerfruit NZ.

I raised the issue of industry information during the AGM, and I reiterate that we cannot be your best advocates without knowledge of what the sector is; area by crop by region, export tonnages, labour demand, etc. We are conscious that some of this is personal information, and for our purposes the sum of the collective of each subset is how we use that information, not each individual grower’s information. So, if you didn’t complete the survey and wish to assist us with our advocacy work, please contact me to discuss how we can achieve that confidentially.

Industry review

Next week I will be in Central Otago to meet with members about the review – there are two meetings planned, one for Tuesday night and one on Wednesday morning. If you would prefer to catch up one-on-one please do let me know.

The following week I expect to be in Hawke's Bay on 12 August for both a review meeting and a SummerGreen meeting.

Once we have feedback from members, the Board will review the proposal and finalise the future functions and structure. 


As you know, we are highly focused on securing seasonal labour for the coming crop. Our analysis from the survey suggest we have a peak demand of 7,000 seasonal workers, 5,500 of which are required in Central Otago. The Summerfruit NZ labour sub-committee has identified several cohorts of potential seasonal staff:

  • New Zealand and international university students
  • Unemployed New Zealanders
  • New Zealand backpackers (who might otherwise be doing their OE)
  • RSE workers
  • Migrants who have stayed in New Zealand, and may be now unemployed from other sectors. 

As a sector our primary focus for seasonal labour must be to attract New Zealanders to the workforce. If we don’t do so then the alternatives will not be accessible to fill any gaps. This is not just an industry focus, but must also be for each business – everyone has a role to play. While migrant workers from other sectors may be available, the ability to secure them for our harvest and packing will be limited by the effort we each put into hiring New Zealanders.

The sub-committee is working with the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) to identify the incentives and barriers to attracting New Zealanders to seasonal jobs, and how these may be addressed. Understanding the unemployed Kiwi cohort is still difficult; while the numbers are rising, the rise has been limited so far by the wage subsidy payments. This is expected to become clearer in the next couple of months. Meanwhile we have commenced engagement with university students, led ably by Chelsea Donnelly, the regional Career Progression Manager. Work is starting on how to attract New Zealand backpackers to work and play in Central Otago, as another piece of the puzzle.

Getting RSE workers back to New Zealand in time for the season, is also now front and centre, for all sectors. Given the ongoing difficulty of repatriation to some Pacific  nations, there is an expectation that several thousand RSE workers will remain in New Zealand, right through next season. While we continue to work on repatriation, consideration for the return of RSE workers, under various scenarios, is underway.

So, what can growers and packers do? For any new group of workers, reducing the barriers to getting settled in the region is crucial. Think about New Zealanders from elsewhere trying to get settled for 10 weeks of work – what options can you provide access to accommodation and transport in particular, and what might encourage them to stay on and see the region? Exploring accommodation options for those who don’t want a hostel or a place to pitch a tent is essential at this stage.

Summerfruit NZ is working with MSD to develop an updated horticulture webpage on the existing worktheseasons.co.nz website as a place where employers and potential workers can come together. Getting potential staff to this website is the key focus of our marketing and branding efforts, and we hope to have the new pages up and running soon. In the meantime, if you have any photos or other imagery that you are happy to share, and for us to use for website and other branding, please contact Victoria Harris

Export logistics

Recent surges in second wave Covid-19 countries have added to the uncertainty about airfreight services. The Summerfruit NZ logistics sub-committee is meeting this week to consider capacity scenarios and the options for supplying the shortfall. Airlines remain very tight-lipped about forecasts on scheduled services (passenger and cargo), especially into 2021, so we will continue to closely monitor trends.