Online service aims to help fill shortage in fruit pickers

Pick Tiki links young New Zealanders with fruit growers around the country.
Pick Tiki links young New Zealanders with fruit growers around the country. Photo credit: Supplied

A new online job service hopes to get students into summer fruit picking work as growers continue to warn of a dire shortage of pickers.

Earlier this month, another warning from growers was issued in a desperate statement, which said some fruit and vegetables could rot unharvested this summer because of a shortage of people to pick them.

Pick Tiki - dreamed up by university graduates Emma Boase and Summer Wynyard - is now linking young New Zealanders with fruit growers around the country.

Erin Simpson, capability development manager of NZ Apples and Pears which is backing the service - told Morning Report students could register their interest online, including where they wanted to go, what type of accommodation they preferred, how many are going if they're a group, and transport options.

Employers also register similar details of what they're looking for and then they're matched together by Pick Tiki.

"We have very good FAQ pages that explain to everybody what it looks like, how safe it is, where they are going to go, what the environment is going to be like," Simpson said.

There was strong demand at the moment for pickers, he said, and they hoped to get as many young people interested, not just those at tertiary level but also senior high school students.

"We have a sequence throughout the country which starts in central Otago, with summer fruit, and moves up the country through to Nelson and Hawke's Bay for apples and then on to Bay of Plenty for kiwifruit for later in the year, so we can accommodate as many people as we can.

"There's also a background story where we're trying to introduce students to the world of horticulture, particularly apples and pears, and give them an opportunity to think about it as a career."

There was a mix of accommodation options that employers were offering, ranging from rooms available on-site to spaces available for vans.

"We're also working with providers in the regions who are offering opportunities for people to come and stay with them in backpackers' hostels and then have transport options out to the orchards," Simpson said.

Pick Tiki has suggested to employers a minimum of 30 hours of work per week to be available for pickers. While the benchmark was the minimum hourly rate, Simpson said those who could put in "extra effort" could earn additional money.

Fruit growers also had different working hours depending on what they had in the orchard, which means there is also a chance for flexibility and getting the afternoon off in some sectors.

"I know with cherries they tend to put in a lot of extra money in the morning, apples might start at 6.30am or 7am and be finished by 3.30pm or 4pm," Simpson said.

For those concerned about safety, he said the employers registered with them also had certifications and were "gold standard."