Government ruling out special managed isolation facility for fruit pickers from Pacific

The Government is ruling out a special managed isolation facility for seasonal fruit pickers from the Pacific.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi says their focus is on getting Kiwi workers into the jobs. But orchards are struggling to find them.

Bostock New Zealand is the country's largest organic apple producer.

Two months ago it ran a major marketing campaign to try and attract Kiwi workers to Hawke's Bay.

"But we only managed to get 55 people who were ready and available for work. And that is way short of what we need," says owner John Bostock.

Half of them were students who won't be available for the peak harvest period. Bostock doesn't believe it's a matter of pay - good pickers can earn over $30 an hour.

And without Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) workers, employers say the lack of experienced pickers is an issue.

"We're short of the skill, definitely the skill level. We're finding it quite stressful teaching the people how to do the job," says Hollandia Orchard manager Murray Booth.

The industry's proposed a special managed isolation facility in Hastings - backed by the local DHB - which would make room for more RSE workers from the Pacific.

"And also it'll be safer, because people from COVID-free countries can all be together in the Hawke's Bay region," Bostock says.

The Government is flatly ruling that out as an option.

"Not at this stage. It's very difficult to run a managed isolation facility. They're run by the Government," says Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi.