Govt supports kiwifruit jobs for kiwis

  • Hon Damien O’Connor

A training programme to help the kiwifruit industry provide employment opportunities for New Zealanders is receiving funding from the Government.

Up to $200,000 is being invested to help people into work and meet urgent seasonal demand in the sector, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

“We know that people have lost their jobs because of COVID-19, and we know there is significant and urgent demand for trained workers in the horticulture sector,” he said.

“During lockdown the kiwifruit industry provided a lifeline for a number of displaced workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality. We want to continue to connect people with jobs in horticulture, and more broadly in the primary industries because we know these sectors will be key to our economic recovery.

“That’s why, in the Budget, we invested $19.3 million over four years to fund initiatives to help recently unemployed New Zealanders access training and work opportunities in the primary sector. This is the first project to be funded as part of this initiative.

In the immediate term, the aim is to place at least 10,000 New Zealanders in primary sector jobs by rapidly retraining and absorbing workers displaced from other sectors.”

Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the sector has a potential shortfall in overseas workers. Already, indicative figures show that, kiwifruit businesses have employed around 70 percent New Zealanders, with some businesses employing up to 90 percent, compared to around 50 percent last season.

“So we know the interest is there, we want to build on that and, in the longer term, retain workers to meet current and future needs.

“Right now the focus for kiwifruit growers is to complete pruning over winter. This is critical for next year’s production. So we’re not wasting any time, these courses will start this month.”

More information

The kiwifruit industry is an important part of the New Zealand primary industries representing over $5.5b in annual revenue and 23,000 jobs.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers (NZKGI) is leading the initiative and partnering with MPI to deliver this programme that will allow 165 people to attend a range of introductory and intensive courses.

The programme targets people who may be interested in a career in the Kiwifruit industry. It offers a 1 day ‘taster’ and basic skills course for people to understand the basics and decide whether this is a suitable career option. For those who want to progress in the industry, a two week training course is then offered. Both courses give NZQA accreditations.

The training announced today is just one of many initiatives that are being worked on and implemented to get people into work.