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Declaration of Seasonal Tasman Labour Shortage

05 April 2018.

The Ministry of Social Development is declaring a seasonal labour shortage across the Tasman region today.

The declaration will be in place from 5 April until 18 May 2018 and follows discussions with leaders from the pipfruit sector, industry experts and other Government agencies.

Regional Labour Market Manager Lynne Williams says there’s been a number of factors that led to the shortage being called, including a bumper crops, low unemployment in the region and the impact of major unexpected weather events impacting visitor number to the district and causing damage some orchards’ accommodation.

"When industry ask for help and play such a vital role in the region, we look to support them where we can - that’s all part of working together," Ms Williams says.

"With the critical period for picking and packing fast approaching, we know there’ll be difficulties in securing enough workers for the anticipated crop increase. This is already felt in the region with Nelson-Tasman having the lowest unemployment rate in the country, at 3.5 percent.

"We’re continuing to work alongside the sector to connect New Zealanders to seasonal work opportunities through Work and Income and to help overcome obstacles facing the remaining pool of jobseekers. More are still needed."

Industry forecasts show the crops produced this year are promising and larger than the last three years.

"On top of the tight labour market, the impact of cyclone Fehi and ex tropical cyclone Gita have impacted the area with employers dealing with damage to their seasonal worker accommodations, as well as extra work cleaning up orchards and removing silt from around trees," Ms Williams says.

"We work closely with orchardists to provide workers throughout the year and this has included introducing pre-employment training, seasonal-specific seminars for jobseekers and industry partnerships. We also help jobseekers and employers through providing support for people who need help with transport and accommodation, and have placed a huge number of people into work so far."

Since March 2017 in the Nelson-Tasman region alone, the Ministry of Social Development has supported more than 400 jobseekers into industry vacancies. There are still 135 vacancies listed with the Ministry, with the majority in Motueka.

"The greatest need for labour is in Motueka, which is a small community and most of the orchards are rural and away from the township, requiring a daily commute for potential jobseekers," Ms Williams says.

"We're continuing to work closely with the sector to ensure that we fill as many positions as possible with our pool of New Zealand jobseekers, including available workers from other parts of the country."

One avenue to do this is the New Zealand Seasonal Work Scheme, which helps Kiwi workers relocate to areas with seasonal labour opportunities.

"We’ve also recently launched the ‘Work the Seasons’ employment portal and seasonal employment opportunities are given a very high profile in all of our Work and Income’s local service centres.

"Enhanced Taskforce Green assistance is also being provided in the Tasman region, which is a project that includes transport being provided for two teams of six workers, plus two supervisors, to help clean up Tasman farms damaged by ex-cyclone Gita."

Service Centres in Nelson and Tasman will also continue to hold seasonal seminars that promote and inform potential workers about employment opportunities in the sector.

By declaring a labour shortage in Tasman, people from overseas with visitor visas can apply for a Variation of Conditions, which allows them to work through the declaration period.

The declaration will be closely monitored and lifted if conditions change.

Editor’s notes:

-The last labour shortage declaration for the region was made in January 2008 when the unemployment rate was at 2.7 percent.

-The Nelson-Tasman region has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. In the December 2017 quarter, the regions unemployment rate was 3.5 per cent.

-Jobseeker numbers have declined by over 22 percent in the last 12 months, from 1,193 work-ready jobseekers in February 2017 to 924 in February 2018.

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