Wellbeing support package unveiled for horticulture sector

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has announced the rollout of a wellbeing support package for fruit growers facing tough times.

“I understand it’s challenging at the moment. The pandemic has led to national workforce issues and orchardists down south have suffered crop losses caused by weather events.

“This package significantly boosts funding and resources to support affected growers and their staff,” Damien O’Connor said.

Events and workshops focusing on the importance of mental wellness are expected to kick-off in April and are planned for the Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Tasman and Central Otago regions.

The support package will include a workplace-based wellbeing training programme, which will initially be offered in the Hawke’s Bay. It is one of the regions where Covid-19 has made it harder for growers to find orchard and pack house staff.

The package is a joint initiative between Government and industry. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will contribute almost $350,000.

New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said it will build on work already being done to boost training and development to help growers attract, recruit and retain staff.

“Many of our members are under considerable stress and we all need to look out for each other. This comprehensive package of workshops, training and events will greatly assist with that,” Alan Pollard said.

The support package is part of a raft of measures being funded to help address labour challenges across the horticulture sector.

Damien O’Connor said there is a big focus on connecting people looking for work with roles that need to be filled.

“Last year, I launched Opportunity Grows Here – a campaign funded through Budget 2020, to attract 10,000 New Zealanders into food and fibre jobs over four years. I’m pleased that to date 3,121 people have gained employment as a result of promotional campaigns, training courses and connections provided through MPI’s regional liaison service.”

MPI has funded a free online course to provide job seekers with the credentials they need, such as health and safety and phytosanitary training, to be able to work in the horticulture sector. 

“Rural Support Trusts are also there to help rural people with wellbeing support during tough times. The Trusts work alongside communities and are well placed to deliver confidential one-on-one support,” Damien O’Connor said.