NZKGI Labour and Education Portfolio
LABOUR – Our Purpose
NZKGI works to identify future seasonal labour requirements and represent the industry to a broad range of stakeholders, including the Government. This includes advocating on behalf of all Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme employers, advocating welfare and focusing on areas such as transportation and accommodation.
The Labour side of the portfolio continuously works on forecasting seasonal labour requirements and subsequently help get more hands-on deck for Growers and the industry to ensure each season is a success. Here are some of the portfolio highlights and achievements from recent years:
Labour Coordination Centre
The start of the 2020 harvest coincided with the arrival of COVID-19. A partnership between NZKGI and Zespri was formed to support the industry in finding workers as well as helping people and businesses affected by COVID-19.
The Labour Coordination Center had companies representing around 700 people and over 400 individuals registered, many from the tourism, hospitality, forestry and construction sectors. The Labour Coordination Center also worked with local chambers of commerce, local Emergency Operations Management teams and business organisations to ensure labour needs were being met and people were being supported.
Bay of Plenty Labour Governance Group (BOPLGG)
With seasonal workers continuing to be a very important part of our industry, NZKGI continues to chair the BOPLGG. This group meets three times a year and has industry-led working groups (Labour Utilisation, Immigration, Education & Training, Worker Pastoral Care, Accommodation/Transport and Business Analysis) to work together to improve seasonal labour availability.
NZKGI continues to take a strong lead on compliance matters to ensure members of the industry are being treated well. The Labour Coordinator fielded complaints, most of which were regarding pay issues. The focus remains on ensuring workers get what they are owed and in providing feedback to the compliance programme to follow up.
Labour Coordinator Appointed
In 2019, NZKGI was successful in gaining funding from the Provincial Growth Fund and the Ministry for Social Development to appoint a full-time Labour Coordinator for a two-year project. The Labour Coordinator position, fulfilled by Gavin Stagg, is responsible for undertaking seasonal recruitment initiatives in conjunction with industry. He had over 800 contacts in his first three months in the role.
Labour Needs Analysis
In 2017, NZKGI initiated a project to identify the seasonal labour needs of the industry currently and into the future. The project provided data that the industry needed to explain the labour shortages at the time and that were projected. The data provided a platform to work with the Government in the establishment of a strategy to ensure the industry has the labour needed to meet growth opportunities.
Labour Shortage Declarations
After identifying a shortage of 1200 workers during the 2018 harvest season, NZKGI worked with the Ministry of Social Development to have a labour shortage declared in the Bay of Plenty from 7 May until 8 June 2018.
The publicity attracted because of the declaration meant that at least half the vacancies were filled, including approximately 220 visitors who applied to vary the conditions of their visas as a result. It showcased the portfolio’s ability to take action for the industry and help Growers be heard.
The Ministry of Social Development then declared a labour shortage in the Bay of Plenty from 15 April until 27 May in 2019. The labour shortage declaration allowed individuals on visitor visas to apply to vary the conditions of their visas to work in the kiwifruit industry in the Bay of Plenty for the period of the declaration.
As a result of the declaration over 400 people applied to vary the conditions of their visas, which contributed to alleviating the worker shortage during the peak harvest period.
Award Winning Labour Attraction Strategy
In response to the labour shortage experienced during the 2018 season, NZKGI initiated the development of a Labour Attraction Strategy in advance of the 2019 harvest. NZKGI identified the target audience and developed a range of initiatives to attract people to the industry by:
- Improving the perception of the industry as an attractive place to seek casual work
- Exploring partnerships with potential sources of labour
- Reaching out to neighbouring regions and farming communities
- Correcting misconceptions about employment within the industry and communicating applicable information to job seekers and employees
- Connecting with job seekers and employees through social media
- Attracting backpackers with Working Holiday Visas
- Exploring collaboration between harvest and post-harvest organisations
The campaign continued through to the end of harvest, and it was deemed a success in lessening the labour shortage.
The project was extended for the 2020 harvest, expanding on and introducing new initiatives, including the attraction video being updated and released pre-harvest. By the end of April 2020, the video had over 113,000 views. A poster was also created to appeal to students and backpackers, along with a flyer targeting retirees.
With COVID-19 likely to impact workforce makeup and availability of backpackers in the future, NZKGI is considering how we can attract and retain more locals into seasonal work for future seasons. For this reason, NZKGI continues to work with the Ministry of Social Development to find ways to negotiate barriers that may be preventing people from becoming employed.
Templates for a fixed term and casual agreement have been created, and a survey was conducted with seasonal staff to give insight into how they view our industry.
An initiative working with the horticultural and agriculture schools and universities in Germany was also created to increase the number of people that travel to New Zealand with a working holiday visa to encourage work in the kiwifruit industry.
The kiwifruit industry takes a strong position on employing New Zealanders as a first priority. One of the initiatives to ensure that New Zealanders are given the chance to join the industry as permanent employees is the Pipeline Project, which is funded by the Ministry for Social Development.
The project focuses on identifying unemployed people and assisting them with permanent work placement in the industry. Potential workers are pre-screened for suitability by the project coordinator, then provided with pastoral care and placed with an employer in a permanent role.
NZKGI is involved in several projects focussing on ensuring the kiwifruit industry has permanent labour available as needed, and that the industry is operating in accordance with employment best practice. One of these is the Global GAP GRASP (Risk Assessment on Social Practice) pilot scheme.
Working with Master Contractors Association and Zespri, this project was a pilot of the new employment requirements under the Global GAP scheme in 2016. The pilot set up systems to identify issues prior to the requirements coming into force but was later introduced across the industry.
Many of Zespri’s customers require compliance with Global GAP GRASP but many of the requirements of the scheme are also legal requirements in New Zealand. NZKGI has been working to help growers ensure that workers on their properties are legally entitled to work and are being well treated. The use of the worker ID card through the Master Contractors Association is one example of how this can be achieved.
EDUCATION – Our Purpose
NZKGI works to attract, retain and develop new and existing members of the industry by working with schools, training providers and industry organisations. The portfolio promotes careers in the kiwifruit industry through events and resource materials. The Young Grower competition and Future Leaders provide further career development opportunities.
The Education side of the portfolio is focused on encouraging New Zealanders, young and old, to see and participate in this fruitful industry, which in turn helps growers with labour and the sector as a whole. Here are some of the portfolio highlights and achievements from recent years:
Young Fruit Grower Competition
NZKGI is proud to organise the Bay of Plenty Young Grower Competition alongside the Bay of Plenty Young Grower Upskilling Committee every year. The event showcases the future leaders of the industry and the varied career opportunities within the horticulture industry.
This competition extends the entrants’ horticultural skills through a series of theoretical and practical challenges, as well as their ability to be innovative and think under pressure. Past participants speak highly of the personal development they gained and the invaluable networking opportunities the competition provides.
Future Leaders was established in 2014 to develop the potential of those in the kiwifruit industry interested in upskilling by engaging them through regular learning, networking and social activities. Some of these have included:
- Special guest speakers like Kiwibank 2019 New Zealander of the Year Mike King of I am Hope talking about mental health to over 200 industry participants.
- Annual Quiz Night, with teams going head-to-head for the title of who is the best of the best in the industry.
- Education sessions with the likes of Claire Russell from Think Plus on developing key leadership skills to create greater engagement, participation and performance in the workplace.
In 2015, Acorn Foundation funded the development of the Kiwifruit Book to provide teachers with a resource that can be used to teach kiwifruit context across a range of subjects. It is updated every year with industry statistics released after harvest as well as significant events and topics that arise over the year.
In 2018, the Kiwifruit Book was professionally designed for the first time, and this resulted in an increase in interest from teachers, growers, and members of the industry wanting to obtain a hard copy of the book.
The 2021 edition included additional information on on-orchard management practices; sustainability, particularly water and nutrient management; and an overview of the industry response to COVID-19. Around 200 copies of the book were printed, with many sent to secondary schools and growers throughout New Zealand as it is a highly regarded resource. An electronic copy is also made available to download on NZKGI’s website.
The NZKGI Education Co-ordinator is also a member of the HortNZ Career Progression Managers Network. This team was created with Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) funding, working to increase the number of students entering into full-time study, industry training, and employment in the horticulture and viticulture sectors. The team has members in the major growing areas of the country and across all horticulture sectors, using the brand GoHort. Nationally, they work collaboratively at events such as National Field Days at Mystery Creek. Regionally, they take ideas from the team and develop initiatives to meet the specific needs of their region. For more see gohorticulture.co.nz.
NZKGI participates each year in several regional career events, including the Eastern Bay of Plenty Career Expo and the Western Bay of Plenty Canvas Careers Expo. We also showcase the industry career opportunities at secondary school career pathway events and MSD job-seeker events.
Cultivate Your Career is a big-day-out annual event that brings together the industry and secondary schools to expose Year 11, 12 and 13 students to the full spectrum of careers available in the kiwifruit industry – on-orchard, in postharvest and associated industries. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the 2020 and 2022 events were postponed, but it is hoped that they will be reinstated in the future.
With funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries, NZKGI was able to offer two winter pruning courses in 2020 and 2021. The one-day taster introduced the basics of the task and how it fits into the production cycle. It was designed for newcomers to the industry to be informed about the physicality of the task. Interested participants then had the opportunity to join a more intensive course focusing on skill development. Those who completed the training were encouraged to seek work as winter pruners on kiwifruit orchards.
The course content for both courses is now available on the NZKGI website for use by anyone in the industry wishing to upskill their own employees.
The winter pruning programme is a great illustration of an industry-led, government-supported initiative that will help New Zealanders with jobs and the kiwifruit industry with much needed labour.