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Campaign to get Kiwis over to Australia to pick fruit 'desperate', Horticulture NZ boss says

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman has slammed Australia's campaign to get New Zealanders across the ditch picking fruits and vegetables as "desperate" and "a publicity stunt".

An orchard worker picks ripe red apples from a tree. Source: istock.com

The new campaign is targeting New Zealanders and includes slogans like "enjoy the fruits of your labour" and "pick your way to paradise".

Trade and Tourism Minister Simon Birmingham is hoping thousands of Kiwis take up the offer.

"Kiwis, where most states have got the borders open for quarantine-free travel, there is an obvious market where we hope that young people can choose to take a gap year, and take a punt on the fact they will be able to return back to New Zealand afterwards quarantine-free," he told ABC radio today.

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Aussie campaign urges Kiwis to cross the ditch to work in picking fruit, tourism

However, Chapman told 1 NEWS today he's not expecting much uptake so isn't worried about New Zealand workers being poached from the orchards and fields in need here.

"Clearly people can go where they want to, it's a basic human right but I'm not particularly worried about it," he said.

"I wonder why Australia would want to do this," he added.

Due to Covid-19 border closures blocking migrants who usually come into New Zealand for seasonal work, Chapman said New Zealand did suffer with it's spring crops.

However, he added that while "it's going to be really tough" heading into the summer season, there had been "brilliant" uptake from New Zealanders keen to work in the industry here.

"We're doing the best we can to find the labour we need."

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Steve Thomas of Thomas Orchard Bros is encouraging people to take up fruit picking in his area as international travel remains grounded. Source: Breakfast

When asked if they'd get more pay across the ditch, Chapman said no - and that despite it being a controversial topic there was good money, sometimes more than $30 per hour, for good pickers here.

"If you do well, you get paid well."

He also said there was good conditions in New Zealand, as well as travel and stay opportunities.

"Why would you go to Australia to work then pay quarantine coming back? There's good, if not better, conditions here.

"I don't think it's that attractive [in Australia] and there's no lack of work here.

"It just seems a bit desperate, a publicity stunt."

Chapman said Covid-19 meant a tough year for the sector, but admitted horticulture was not alone.

He said the Government was doing it's bit to support them, though.

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Her comments come as Australia is offering a one-off $2000 payment to work across the ditch. Source: 1 NEWS

Last month, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern made a "plea for Kiwis" to take up horticulture jobs at home, as the industry struggles to find seasonal workers.

Her comments came as Australia offered a one-off $2000 payment for New Zealanders to work across the ditch in seasonal horticulture roles.

"I think what Australia's doing demonstrates we are all experiencing the impact of closed borders, which are part of our successful Covid response," she said.

"We are working very, very hard with our horticultural industry to find the New Zealanders to go into those jobs, making sure the conditions are good and that we’re attracting people into the work."

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The Australian Government is offering a $2000 relocation payment for people who move to help its horticulture industry. Source: Seven Sharp