Government is supportive at home and abroad but the help for horticulturalists comes too late for one grower

Our Beehive bulletin

Being supportive was the order of the day in the Beehive. Ministers announced support for Papua New Guinea, support for trades involved in rebuilding, and support for the horticultural sector (in the case of fruit growers “wellbeing” came into considerations, too).

The support for horticulturalists, alas, seems somewhat meagre in dollar terms and has come too late for one grower. 

The news came on the same day as it was reported that one of the country’s largest strawberry growers – a forthright critic of Government policies keeping the crucial Pacific Island labour force locked out – is calling it a day.

Stuff understands that Francie Perry of Perrys Berrys has chosen to walk away from forty years in horticulture after repeatedly calling on the Government to give growers a break and let more Registered Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme workers into the country.

One other statement from the Beehive advised that a Deed of Settlement has been signed between the Crown and Ngāti Paoa settling the historical Treaty of Waitangi claims of the iwi.

The money dished out in this case was compensation rather than support. 

Ngāti Paoa will receive redress that includes the return of 12 sites of cultural significance and financial and commercial redress valued at $23.5 million, along with a wide range of other commercial, cultural and relationship items.

The Beehive press statement on support for Papua New Guinea didn’t tell us how much the help being given will cost the public purse, but it did say it is in addition to the $6 million in COVID-19 related support that New Zealand has provided to that country over the past year, including budget support, medical supplies and equipment.

Support for building trades amounts to a four-months extension to the Apprenticeship Boost.

The sum budgeted for the extension wasn’t mentioned either, but we were told $80 million has been paid out to employers of first-year apprentices already.

Through the scheme, employers can access a subsidy of $1,000 a month for first-year apprentices and $500 a month for second-year apprentices.

But wait.  There will be more. The extended apprenticeship boost forms part of a suite of measures to be announced next week to help address the housing crisis.

The “wellbeing support package” announced for fruit growers facing tough times amounts to a much more modest sum.  Less than $350,00.

O’Connor acknowledged the Covid-19 pandemic has led to “national workforce issues” (a politician’s way of saying horticulturalists are desperate to find workers to pick and pack their crops) while orchardists down south have suffered crop losses caused by adverse weather.

Events and workshops focusing on the importance of mental wellness are expected to begin next month and are planned for the Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Tasman and Central Otago regions.

The support package will include a workplace-based wellbeing training programme, initially to be offered in the Hawke’s Bay.

The package is a joint initiative between Government and industry. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) will contribute almost $350,000.

New Zealand Apples and Pears chief executive Alan Pollard said it will build on work already being done to boost training and development to help growers attract, recruit and retain staff.

“Many of our members are under considerable stress and we all need to look out for each other. This comprehensive package of workshops, training and events will greatly assist with that,” Alan Pollard said.

The support package is part of a raft of measures being funded to help address labour challenges across the horticulture sector.

Damien O’Connor said there is a big focus on connecting people looking for work with roles that need to be filled.

He recalled launching Opportunity Grows Here last year, a campaign funded through Budget 2020 to attract 10,000 New Zealanders into food and fibre jobs over four years.

As a result of promotional campaigns, training courses and connections provided through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ regional liaison service, 3,121 people have gained employment.

The ministry has funded a free online course to provide job seekers with the credentials they need, such as health and safety and phytosanitary training, to be able to work in the horticulture sector.

Education Minister Chris Hipkins announced the boost for the Apprenticeship Boost programme during a visit to Fair and Square Building Services Ltd in Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Through Apprenticeship Boost, employers can access a subsidy of $1,000 a month for first- year apprentices and $500 a month for second-year apprentices.

Since launching in August 2020, more than 10,000 employers have signed up and received almost $97 million in subsidies for more than 21,000 apprentices.

All industries with formal apprenticeship training programmes are taking up this support with 32% of Apprenticeship Boost apprentices enrolled with BCITO, and 22% with the Skills Organisation — which includes building and construction related apprenticeships in plumbing, gasfitting, drainlaying, electrical, roofing and scaffolding.

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta announced New Zealand is providing support to Papua New Guinea following a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths.

“We are providing support to the Government of Papua New Guinea as it identifies and responds to emergency needs created by the pandemic. PPE remains a priority as the health system feels the pressure, so a New Zealand Defence Force flight is scheduled to deliver PPE from Auckland to Port Moresby on Saturday.”

“We are also making funding available to the New Zealand High Commission in Port Moresby to respond to needs on the ground, as requested by partners in Papua New Guinea.”

 PPE kits comprising of hand sanitiser, goggles, biohazard bags, Milton sterilising tablets, shoe covers, sharps boxes, infrared thermometers, swabs, gloves, gowns, surgical masks and face shields will be sufficient to treat 1,000 COVID-19 cases.

New Zealand has also contributed to the World Health Organisation’s Papua New Guinea office to support its COVID-19 response plan and has supported community-level COVID-19 risk reduction efforts through New Zealand NGOs and their local partners.

Latest from the Beehive

19 MARCH 2021

Deed of Settlement signed with Ngāti Paoa | Kua waitohua he Whakaaetanga Whakataunga ki a Ngāti Paoa

Support for PNG following surge in COVID cases

Wellbeing support package unveiled for horticulture sector

Backing the trades to support the rebuild

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