In less than two weeks, the first group of horticulture workers from the Pacific Islands will be hitting orchards after they complete their isolation period.
This is a welcome relief to the industry, particularly with apple harvesting fast approaching. Industry leaders said that the first flight carrying long-awaited workers arrived on Sunday, with flights continuing to arrive every four days thereafter.
Eventually, there will be 2000 extra seasonal workers in the country, adding to the 5000 already here. Each flight will carry 156 Registered Seasonal Employers (RSE) workers, and there will be 13 flights in total.
Alan Pollard, Apple and Pears New Zealand chief executive, has worked alongside other industry body chiefs to spearhead the operation to get the workers into the country, and while their arrival will bring relief to fruit, wine and vegetable growers throughout New Zealand, the industry is still well short the number required to fully tackle the workload.
In November, the government announced it would allow 2000 horticultural workers from the Pacific to enter in the new year under strict conditions. It is the first significant opening of the border to foreign workers since the pandemic hit.
The RSE workers would first harvest apple, which begins next month, followed by Kiwifruit and then winter pruning.