About 500 people poured into the Pick the Bay Employment Expo in Hastings last night, eager to find about job opportunities in our local horticulture and viticulture industries. And while that number is heartening, even if every one of those people ended up with a seasonal or permanent job, there will still be a massive shortfall of labour this year.

The Expo was the brainchild of the Hastings District Council in partnership with New Zealand Apples and Pears Inc., local government colleagues, MSD, MPI, MBIE, industry trainers, representative groups and growers, and aimed to support the sectors that have a shortage of workers for the impending harvest season.

The apple, pear and viticulture sectors are vital to Hawke’s Bay’s economy, contributing more than $1 billion directly to the region’s GDP.

The apple and pear sector alone contributes almost $700 million to our regional economy, directly supporting around 2,580 permanent local workers and indirectly, through the supply chain, another 5,751 permanent local workers.

At the peak of the harvest, the sector supports around 4,000 non-RSE seasonal jobs and around 13,733 seasonal roles in total throughout the year. About 10,000 seasonal workers are needed now to prune and pick $1 billion worth of fruit across Hawke’s Bay alone.

New Zealand Apples and Pears’ Gary Jones said the Employment Expo’s large turnout was the biggest he’s seen and has given industry some confidence that it will meet its early labour needs, but there are still concerns for the harvest period.

“In difficult times our community has shown real confidence in the plants industry and they see the opportunities it has to offer. There are hundreds of permanent and seasonal jobs on offer here in an industry and region that will continue to grow well into the future. That resilience is hard to find and we are so fortunate to have it here in Hawke’s Bay. But we will need another Employment Expo pre-harvest.”

The stands at the Expo had information about summer work opportunities in the industry — from picking to forklift driving and working in the packhouse — as well as longer-term career opportunities.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said she was “astounded” by the number of people who dropped into the event and that it showed the value of all the agencies working together to promote the industry to local workers.

“There were hundreds of people lining up outside Toitoi waiting to come in and talk to our growers … the response to the call for workers was outstanding. It shows that our community really wants to work in the horticulture and viticulture sectors.

“Some people will be starting work from today as a result of talking to growers there, and others will have learnt a lot more about the fantastic jobs and career pathways available to everyone in the community.”

Event attendees ranged in age from high school students to retirees, and Hazlehurst said local growers who were in need of reliable teams were keen to offer conditions that worked for everyone.

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