The New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Institute NZKGI says loosening of border restrictions this month might help with the harvest but it’s “highly speculative”.
From March 14 all vaccinated New Zealanders, skilled workers earning at least 1.5 times the median wage and those accessing the working holiday visa scheme are allowed back in the country without having to go through MIQ.
They will still need to self-isolate for seven days.
When it was announced last month immigration minister Kris Faafoi said the plan was a step forward in addressing skills and labour shortages and accelerating the economic recovery.
He says re-opening the working holiday scheme will supply urgently needed workers for the tourism, hospitality, wine and horticultural sectors as well as providing some much-needed visitor spending.
NZKGI ceo Colin Bond says the announcement is important for New Zealand’s post-covid economic recovery but it was too late for the wider horticulture industry fruit harvest and exports this season.
“Working holiday and skilled migrants entering the country now will not help the summerfruit harvest that has almost finished. It will also have limited benefit for the wine grape and apple harvests that are about to get underway.”
He says the working holiday visa holders entering New Zealand could go some way towards helping with the kiwifruit harvest.
“However the extent is unknown and the expectation that a large number of working holiday visa holders would quickly enter the country is highly speculative.
“The horticulture industry has been signalling the chronic labour shortage for harvest and pruning – exacerbated by Covid and closed borders – to the Government for several months.
“While we welcome any policy that helps New Zealand’s food and fibre sector to recover, this policy change is too late to make a significance difference to this season’s fruit harvest.”