Government accused of failing to address labour shortage as kiwifruit harvest nears

National's Todd Muller is calling on the Government to "fix" a looming labour shortage in the kiwifruit industry.

Last year a labour shortage was declared, with demand for another 1200 workers in the Bay of Plenty, but Mr Muller says it was called too late.

"The Government needs to urgently declare a seasonal worker shortage, a situation that would allow work visas to be fast-tracked as they were late in the 2018 season, but instead they are sitting on their hands," he says.

But Labour's Ian Lees-Galloway says the Government is taking practical steps to ensure no fruit's left to rot.

He says the Government's reviewing the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme and increased the number of RSEs to 1750 people.

"It's actually the largest increase to the cap that we've had since 2009," he says.

Meanwhile, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated Chief Executive Nikki Johnson tells 1 NEWS it's too early to predict whether a labour shortage will be declared.

It's launching a campaign to encourage workers to the industry, and Ms Johnson says it's not about paying more - rather "focusing people on what the opportunities and jobs are in kiwifruit".

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    Last year there weren’t enough hands to pick and pack. Source: 1 NEWS