Cheap Labour, Closed Borders


Nov 16, 2003
Dunedin, New Zealand
Well the borders are reopened after being closed for 2+ years due to Covid.

Labour shortages in hospitality, agriculture and tourism.

Labour (the party) wants to change how things have been done. National (right wing party )wants to repeal Labours changes.

How bad is it?

In 2000/2001 I did fruit picking. I wasn't overly fast but could do 3-4 bins a day at $25 per bin. In 2001 I was joined by wife during university holidays. She could do as many as I could the fast pickers could do 50%-100% more than me.

Minimum wage was $8 NZD an hour circa 2000. Rent was $50 in the town I stayed privately or free via the boss place. At my anemic rate I could get more than say McDonald's or working a dairy farm. Less than a freezing works.

Pre Covid in 2020 bin rate was $35. Rent varies but can be up to $200 a week often charged by the employer in effect paying less than minimum wage.

If you can't pick enough bins minimum wage applied $21.20 an hour. Labour repealed the 90 trial period. This let employers fire staff in the first 90 days.

Basically they would churn through migrant staff. Can't pick fast enough they would fire you. In 2000 you just got paid contract rates couldn't pick fast enough you just got paid for what you did. We had an elderly ex lawyer doing it and he got about two bins a day he liked the sunshine and young teenagers would do it as well as it didn't matter how much they did.

These days it can be hard to even get the job if you're a kiwi the conditions are worse and the pay is low.

They changed the laws back in 2005 or 8 iirc.

Note here things are other way around. Labour was trying to restrict migrants and labour exploitation the right is pro immigration.

Just some thoughts.
How big is a bin?
What were you picking apples, kiwi fruit or strawberries?


Strawberry were done in smaller buckets (backbreaking because of the bending).

Haven't done kiwi think it's to cold. Central Otago was apples, stonefruit (peaches, nectarines etc) and grapes.

Oh cherries as well. If kiwi was done I didn't see it.
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How big is a bin?

Forklift/tractor required to move. Not 100% sure but 1.5 meters by something similar v80 cm deep maybe a metre.

Filled bucket by bucket.

That big

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Did you have to get on ladders to reach the fruit?

Yes with a basket strapped to your side. Hottest part of the country although if it went over mid 30's tended to stop working. Hit 39 one day was 37 at 10pm.

Pub time in that heat or the pond (or both).
Come to think of it I’ve never seen a cherry picker used to pick cherries.

It depends on the type of cherries and the height of the tree. Of course they can be used for more than just cherries, and I don't remember the older ones being so high.
I have pleasant memories of being a young lad and going up a
ladder with a small bucket and picking apples in my father's garden.

My own gardens are much smaller, and I have two apple trees
that are dwarf rooting stock, so I hardly need a ladder.

Besides which if over 30F, I'd likely get heat stroke and fall off.
Over 30 we normally knocked off and went back early evening.
We had some fruit trees in the back yard of the last house I lived in. Two were plum trees, one was crabapple, and one was saskatoon.

We usually picked the crabapples as high as we could reach, and left the rest for the birds and squirrels. Ditto the other trees.
Yeah, I don't think the main point was the details in the picking.

We have essentially the same situation here. Somehow after 30 years of bulk immigration we have a labour shortage. It is said to be a skilled labour shortage.
Why ? How does that happen ?

Perhaps a couple of contributing points. For decades the adult skilled education system the TAFE (Technical and Further Education) system was run into the ground in preference to getting cheap labour immigrants or a short term visa system. (That was rorted).

Hospitality says they can't get enough staff but penalty rates were abolished in the last government so there is no incentive to work unsocial hours.

I'm very much of the opinion that short term profiteering instead of long view nation building has really screwed things up.
I think the wider global impact of Covid will never be undone. We have stunted globalisation the world over. Everthing, everywhere is in shorter supply than is was due to the global collapse of trade/commerce/movement etc.

Even to get back to the level we were could take decades. Its going to be tough for some time.
Bugles are no longer being sold in Canada. The American company cites issues with us being too spread-out (cities too far apart) to make it profitable.

Not that it matters much to me, but some people are Very Upset and have sourced similar items from Japan.
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