Wellington, May 9: The government of New Zealand, in a last-ditch attempt to save the bumper kiwi crop from rotting, has decided to change the visa rules. As per the amendments, those in NZ on holiday visa would be allowed to work on Kiwi farms for harvesting purpose.
Kiwifruit Growers Inc., the body of the premium fruit growers in Bay of Plenty, said the move may not succeed in addressing the shortage of labour. While speaking to reporters, he said the local workforce prefer to remain hungry than working on Kiwi farms.
Kiwi harvesting is considered to be the most labour-intensive occupation in New Zealand. The workers are required to temporarily relocate at the farms, and toil for unprecedented hours.
Although the government has fixed a high minimum wage of $16 per hour for the Kiwi farmland workers, the farm owners claim merely offering a high-wage will not attract labour. "Inexplicably people will choose to go hungry rather than work in a packhouse," said Stuart Weston, MD of fruit company Apata, while speaking to Radio NZ.
The Bay of Plenty region, where the maximum among the commercial Kiwi farms are located, has around 6,000 unemployed youths. At present, over 1,200 workers are needed on immediate purpose.
Regional Commissioner Mike Bryant, while addressing the press over the disdain among the local workforce to work on Kiwi farms, said the government is in "active discussions with leaders in the sector on how to make the industry more attractive to workers".