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Tourists to New Zealand are being recruited to help solve a critical labor shortage in Hawke’s Bay, one of New Zealand’s major apple-production regions.

Work and Income New Zealand, part of the Ministry of Social Development, has announced that it expects a critical labor shortage until June and is allowing visitors traveling on tourist visas to obtain a work permit for up to four-and-a-half months.

Work and Income New Zealand has been working with the horticulture industries to closely monitor the supply of workers, according to information from Pipfruit New Zealand, Inc. Labor shortages are also reported in the Central Otago fruit growing-region on New Zealand’s South Island.

With unemployment at record low levels, seasonal workers are difficult to find. Fewer New Zealanders are available for seasonal work, and growers are relying more on overseas workers, according to a press release from Gary Jones at Pipfruit New Zealand.

Working Holiday

New Zealand has a Working Holiday Scheme operating with 26 countries that brought 35,000 people to New Zealand last year to combine work and pleasure.

"What we want to do is get more holidaymakers working in apples, and the government has provided the extra incentive of a three-month visa extension for travelers that do," Jones said.

The Hawke’s Bay area needs about 8,500 workers for apple harvest, beginning in February. Most of them will come from overseas.

Another new effort for this season is the Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme that provides Pacific Island –workers with the chance to travel to New Zealand each year to work. Unlike –seasonal worker programs in some other countries, the RSE scheme requires that the workers be paid the same amount as New Zealanders. They are able to return to their families with enough money to change their lives, Jones said.