Horticulture industry ready to 'get on with business' after 'nuisance' election

The industry has been facing a severe worker shortage in recent months.
The industry has been facing a severe worker shortage in recent months. Photo credit: File

With the horticulture industry facing severe labour shortages in the wake of COVID-19, growers are ready to "get on with business" now the election is over.

Mike Chapman, chief executive of Horticulture New Zealand, says the sector has no strong view about which party it prefers in power, as long as the industry is allowed to continue to grow.

"For us, it's not really about who is in Government, it's about how we can actually work with Government," Chapman told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange over the weekend.

"For us, the election has been a bit of a nuisance because what it's done is slow down the decision-making."

The industry has been facing a severe worker shortage in recent months, with the country's closed borders meaning migrant RSE workers are unable to enter the country. Chapman called the issue "critical" and said he hoped to get some "really fast decisions" from the Government now the focus had gone off electioneering.

As well as the issue of workers, Chapman said water storage was also a cause for concern.

"We're already seeing the signs of drought in early spring so going forward there really does need to be a clear focus on how do we get the country back on its feet?" he said.

"The key things for us haven't changed," Chapman said. "How can we be enabled to keep on growing so we can help New Zealand come out of our recession?"

Another problem Chapman identified was the issue of getting New Zealand horticultural products to the international market.

"Our product will sell overseas and it will sell for good value," he said. 

"It's getting it there and it's being able to, in our case, pick it and pack it and ship it. One of the key problems we're facing now is airfreight. Most of the airfreight used to go with passenger jets, [now] there aren't that many passenger jets. 

"The Government is working on this issue but it's one that probably needs a different type of solution. We need to make sure our air freight is running, not just for horticulture but for every primary sector that needs to get perishable goods overseas quickly."