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NZ working visas come too late for this year’s harvest

New Zealand’s working visa applications have reopened, but orchard and winery owners say it is too late for the harvest.

New Zealand’s viticulture sector has, historically, relied upon travelling tourists willingness to work. However, since the pandemic, the labour shortages have affected picking and, as a result, the entire harvest.

On Sunday 13 March, applications for working holiday schemes opened for the first time since the pandemic began.

Hawke’s Bay apple grower and owner of the Yummy Fruit Company, Paul Paynter, reported how it was a “huge relief” but admitted: “It will be meaningless to us, but it will be good news for the next season.”

Prior to the pandemic New Zealand reportedly welcomed 50,000 working holidaymakers, usually aged 18 to 30, to work in the country for up to 12 months – or 23 months from the UK or Canada.

Two years ago, Paynter revealed he had employed about 130 backpackers, making up a third of his workforce, but that this season he had none.

Craggy Range’s general manager Aaron Drummond , said labour difficulties had impacted both the hospitality and vineyard sides of the business revealing how the business had struggled to find front of house staff.

As such, even though Hawke’s Bay vineyard had managed with the seasonal workers’ scheme, it had been more difficult in Martinborough to find staff.

He said the announcement would have no impact on this year’s vintage, already well underway, but at least it would now help address labour shortages as the borders reopened.

Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi added: “Working holidaymakers tend to travel to multiple regions during their time in New Zealand, which is beneficial for the tourism sector and local economies right across the country.”

Immigration NZ (INZ) was also reportedly granting new 12 month visas to an estimated 19,500 people whose working holiday visas had expired. These people would be able to travel to New Zealand after being contacted by INZ.

INZ general manager border in charge of visa operations Nicola Hogg said INZ would aim to process new working holiday visa applications within 20 working days.

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