Covid-19 coronavirus: Travel bubble – orchardists plead with Govt for Pacific Island bubble

Hawke’s Bay orchardists and businesses reliant on seasonal work are calling on the Government to open a travel bubble with the Pacific islands, saying it’s been one of the most challenging seasons in 40 years.

They say upwards of $600 million is set to be lost to the local economy as a result of a lack of workers to take fruit off trees in 2021, and say it cannot happen again in 2022.

Orchardist John Bostock and other industry leaders fronted a press conference in Meeanee on Wednesday morning, detailing the full extent of their experiences without the usual levels of recognised seasonal employees.

They described the situation as a “crisis”.

The government let 2000 Pacific RSE workers in to cover the shortage, but a lack of space in MIQ has left huge shortfalls in the usual labour force.

“This simply hasn’t worked and those who think it has worked are wrong,” Bostock said.

NZ Apples and Pears CEO Alan Pollard said early predictions of a potential $1.1b hit to Hawke’s Bay’s economy as a result of the season’s troubles wouldn’t end up being far off the mark.

“Sadly what we’re seeing right now is a reality of what we predicted.”

He said a shortage of 3000-4000 apple pickers would mean roughly 14% fewer exports would leave the region – a direct $130 million hit that would also put upwards of $600m of flow on effects for the local economy at risk.

MORE TO COME

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