Refugees could be resettled to help worker shortage

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Refugees brought to New Zealand could be resettled in Hawke's Bay in a bid to ease a chronic labour shortage of horticultural workers, the Immigration Minister says.

A seasonal labour shortage has been declared by the Ministry for Social Development in Hawke's Bay for the current harvest.

But the region's growers are worried about future crops as it becomes increasingly difficult to fill the hundreds of new full-time jobs being created each year.

The government has promised to double the quota of refugees to 1500 in the next three years and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, who has been touring the region over the last two days, has been urged by the horticultural sector to make Hawke's Bay a refugee resettlement location.

"When we go ahead with that [increased quota] we'll be looking for other regions to receive those refugees...and I would certainly be open to a conversation with local government and the community here in Hawke's Bay about Hawke's Bay becoming a refugee resettlement centre," Mr Lees-Galloway said.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton supported the call from the horticulture industry.

"Hawke's Bay is a very welcoming province, the fact is it's a bigger issue that that. We need to put some structure in...we can't just bring people in here and have them working in paddocks. We've got to house them and provide social facilities for's something we need to look at."

The mental health provider Refugee as Survivors New Zealand chief executive Ann Hood agreed access to resouces were important, but Hawke's Bay was as well placed as any to provide this.

"Hawke's Bay is just as well resourced in terms of providing for the needs of a vulnerable population as other parts of New Zealand..that shouldn't hold it back."

Though the avaliability of social housing and the rising private rents in the region could be an issue that was taken into consideration, she said.

Unemployment is at a record low in Hawke's Bay, just 14 seasonal workers have been recruited to fill 300 apple picking jobs needed to harvest a bumper crop in the next few weeks.

Iain Lees-Galloway said he would also consider a plea from growers to allow more seasonal workers from the Pacific to cope with growing demand.

On Friday the government would launch a website called Work The Seasons to join connected seasonal workers to employers across the country in a bid to ease the labour shortage.