What the horticulture industry is doing to attract and retain New Zealanders

26 Nov 2020


Thornhill Horticultural Contracting Ltd offers fulltime, year-round employment, in conjunction with accommodation and pastoral care. Released prisoners, who have an existing job, are also accommodated and provided with pastoral care.

Recognising the housing crisis and having rooms available during out of season periods, Thornhill has teamed up with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) and the Department of Corrections to offer subsidised accommodation and work packages to those who are either homeless and without work, or recently released from prison.

Bostock New Zealand’s Pick Organic and be our Harvest Hero! campaign is attracting people across New Zealand for orchard and packhouse roles.  It includes assistance with accommodation and transport. 

Leaning Rock Cherries Limited’s campsite comes equipped with a kitchen/communal area, toilets and showers, washing machines and Wi-Fi for $63.00 a week.

Clyde Orchards charge between $35 and $90 a week for accommodation, with a 50% refund if people complete the season. 

Central Organics is also offering a 50% on accommodation if people stay the whole season. 


CentralPac in Central Otago is bringing a group of young people down from Northland in January, paying for their flights as well as subsidising their accommodation. They will have 12-14 in the group as a trial. 

45 South in Central Otago is offering free transport from Cromwell to and from work.  They are running a campaign with Mad Campers to attract university students by subsidising camper costs and offering subsidised tourist activities.

Ten packhouses in the Bay of Plenty are subsidising the transport of people from outlying areas to their packhouses. 

On the East Coast, seven employers provide 10 vans from November to May to transport people for apple thinning; berry, grape and apple harvesting; and packhouse night shifts.

MSD and two growers are partnering to cover transport costs for vans from homes to the work sites.  That is, Masterton to Greytown (JR Orchards) and Dannevirke to Waipawa (Mr Apple).


CentralPac has arranged with Kahu Youth in Wanaka to bring in groups of up to 50 young people a day to work as pickers in January.  CentralPac will be subsidising their transport, and providing them with training, with the aim of training them up as a yearly workforce, and hopefully encouraging some to take up a career in horticulture.

Bay of Plenty packhouses are providing on the job forklift driving training and experience.  Twenty-five people are now in work as a result of this training. 

Thompson’s Horticultural Ltd on the East Coast is offering training and employment in kiwifruit production. People receive pre-employment training, employment, on-going pastoral care, and enrolment in a Level 2 certificate in horticulture with the Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT). 

Tipu is an industry-driven group of horticulture businesses in the Tairawhiti region. They coordinate both employers and employees to promote skills development and sustainable employment opportunities. 

On the East Coast, Bostock New Zealand has partnered with the MSD to offer nail gun training to people so they can be employed as bin builders throughout harvest season. 

T&G Global is offering two forklift training options in conjunction with MSD on the East Coast: two weeks of training in practical forklift skills; or six weeks of training under a national skills for industry programme. 

Flexible hours

In the Hawkes Bay, many employers offer flexible hours.  This is designed to allow people such as those on a domestic purposes benefit to work hours suited to their family needs.  The model works well in packhouses.

Hawkes Bay employers are continuing to engage with the Department of Corrections on its Release to Work programme.  These people are guaranteed work, and are provided with transport and subsidised accommodation if it is needed.

Financial incentives

45 South has committed more than $500,000 for seasonal bonuses. Pickers start on $19.00/hr but can earn up to an extra $2.00/hr more based on an average of 22 cherry buckets per day (the 2020 season average). However, with a big cherry crop on the trees, it is expected that average will be closer to 24 buckets per day, resulting in an extra $2.50 - $4.00/hr.

The scheme also sees cherry packhouse staff who stay to the end of the season getting a $2.00/hr bonus too.

“Stay the Season” Bonus.  No matter when the pickers starts, if they complete the harvest with 45 South, they will qualify for a season bonus. This will be paid out at the rate of $1.00/bucket of cherries picked over the entire time they have been at 45 South.  This bonus could exceed $1000. 

Leaning Rock Cherries Limited is also offering bonus rates: $5.00 for every bucket from the nineteenth bucket onwards. 

CentralPac is paying a bucket bonus for pickers if they stay until the end of our season of 75 cents a bucket.  They are also paying a $1.00/hr bonus to hourly-paid staff, if they stay until the end of the season.

Clyde Orchards pay their permanent staff at least the living wage.  Their casual staff have the opportunity to earn daily bonuses. 

The apple industry in the Teviot Valley last year paid an average of $29.81/hr for harvest and $24.75/hr for thinning.  They are discounting accommodation for the coming harvest. 

For more information about pay rates, please see the Recognised Seasonal Worker Survey 2020, page 4. 

Please note: this is not meant to be a complete list as there are so many initiatives across New Zealand. But if you would like an incentive included in this list, please email andrew.bristol@hortnz.co.nz