The Ministry of Social Development has declared a seasonal labour shortage in the Tasman region amid a bumper season for pipfruit.
The declaration means people from overseas with visitor visas can apply for a variation of conditions, which allows them to work through the declaration period, which runs from today to May 18.
Regional labour market manager Lynne Williams said a number of factors had led to the shortage being called, including bumper pipfruit crops, low unemployment and the impact of major unexpected weather events impacting visitor numbers to the district and causing damage to some orchards' accommodation.
"With the critical period for picking and packing fast approaching, we know there'll be difficulties in securing enough workers for the anticipated crop increase," Williams said.
"We're continuing to work alongside the sector to connect New Zealanders to seasonal work opportunities through Work and Income and to help overcome obstacles facing the remaining pool of jobseekers. More are still needed," she said.
Industry forecasts showed the crops produced this year were promising, and larger than the last three years.
On top of the tight labour market, the impact of cyclone Fehi and ex tropical cyclone Gita have impacted the area with employers dealing with damage to their seasonal worker accommodations, as well as extra work cleaning up orchards and removing silt from around trees.
Since 2017, the ministry has supported more than 400 jobseekers into industry vacancies in the Nelson-Tasman region.
There are still 135 vacancies listed with the ministry, with the majority in Motueka, Williams said.
The last labour shortage declaration for the region was made in January 2008 when the unemployment rate was at 2.7 per cent.
The Nelson-Tasman region has the lowest unemployment rate in the country. In the December 2017 quarter, the region's unemployment rate was 3.5 per cent.
Jobseeker numbers have declined by more than 22 per cent in the last 12 months, from 1,193 work-ready jobseekers in February 2017 to 924 in February this year.
By: Jamie Gray
Business reporter, NZ Herald