Exclusive: WorkSafe begins kiwifruit orchard crackdown after safety concerns raised

A Newshub investigation into safety on kiwifruit orchards has led to a number of infringements aimed at growers.

Last year, kiwifruit made New Zealand almost $2 billion in exports, but there are now questions about safety on the orchards themselves.

Northlander John Levers first raised concerns one year ago.

"It's disappointing, to be honest," he told Newshub. "I would have hoped for a clean bill of health, but I knew that wasn't really a reality."

In July Newshub's investigation revealed WorkSafe was about to spot test orchards. It has now looked at 22 orchards and issued half of them with 21 infringements.

The offences range from those needing just verbal warning, to more serious ones.

"Yes it's great for our economy, it does create jobs but as I've said previously - if it can't be grown safely then it shouldn't be grown at all."

And there's another concern for growers; an important chemical called Hi-Cane used on orchards is under review.

An Environmental Protection Authority committee found there are grounds to take another look at its safety.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated is reassuring its members everything's fine. Right now, it's working on an alternative to hi-cane spray.

It says despite WorkSafe's testing, most orchards do comply with the rules.

WorkSafe is promising to continue its spot testing, while the Growers' Association says it'll continue educating its members on what's acceptable.