Central Otago Mayor calls for surplus MIQ spots to go to horticulture workers

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan. Photo credit: Supplied

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan is calling on the Government to offer some of the available MIQ spaces to foreign workers.

MIQ authorities are urging people to return to New Zealand to snap up a sudden glut of vacancies for April. There have not been as many vacancies since October.

In an open letter to ministers, Cadogan said Central Otago's horticulture industry was desperate for workers and bringing in foreigners under the seasonal employment scheme would bring huge relief.

"I am sure I do not need to draw your attention to the labour shortage we have in Central Otago in our horticultural industry and the desperate need for increased numbers of RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme workers, but I do need to emphasise that things here are getting worse not better," Cadogan's letter said.

"I have recently seen growers brought to tears by their fear and frustration for the apple picking season ahead and the work required after that to ensure we have a crop next year.

"I am confident that all options have been explored to fill the labour needs and that an influx of RSE workers is desperately required. The sudden emergence of MIQ vacancies may be a Godsend.

"Given today is the last day in March, I cannot foresee hundreds of overseas New Zealanders being able to take advantage of these rooms at such short notice whereas the horticultural industry, I am sure, can. Can you please ensure that these vacant rooms do not go to waste and are urgently secured for RSE workers if demand is not forthcoming from expat New Zealanders.

"The loss financially to individual growers, the economy of my district and our nation will be devastating if we cannot harvest the fruit currently on the trees and ensure pruning and so forth for the next season is undertaken. These vacancies could be the answer to what seemed an insurmountable problem."