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Hyundai Country Calendar


Episode 20: From the Islands

On the next episode, screening July 4 at 7pm on TV ONE:

The lives of thousands of Pacific Islanders are being transformed, thanks to the money they're earning as seasonal workers in New Zealand.

And the owners of New Zealand orchards and pack-houses are smiling too - their perennial labour shortages are a thing of the past, adding millions of dollars to productivity.

This week's Country Calendar programme meets some Vanuatu villagers at home and follows them to their temporary jobs in Hawke's Bay and the Bay of Plenty.

Three years ago the Government set up the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme in response to a desperate shortage of seasonal labour in orchards, market gardens and vineyards.

Now Pacific Island workers have become an integral part of the industry. Around 8000 have been employed this year to pick and pack New Zealand's export harvest - after which they'll return home.

John and Meriam David are from the village of Ekipe, on the island of Efate in Vanuatu. Like most villages in Vanuatu, there's not much in the way of reticulated water or electricity and the only way to earn money is by selling fruit and vegetables in the market.

That's not enough to pay for their four children to go to school or to make any improvements to their simple home.

Last year John spent seven months picking and pruning in kiwifruit orchards in the Bay of Plenty. The money he earned was enough to build a new house and pay a year's school fees.

This year he's back, this time accompanied by wife Meriam. She wants to earn enough money to improve their kitchen, where she still cooks over an open fire.

The Country Calendar crew filmed John and Meriam working for Aongatete Coolstores, a large corporate kiwifruit grower, contract picker and export packer in the Bay of Plenty.

Packhouse manager Clive Exelby says he used to have endless problems getting enough reliable workers, but thanks to the arrival of the Pacific workers, he now has a big group of enthusiastic, hard-working staff who turn up on time every day.

Other sites to view:

Tourism info on Vanuatu
- More about the seasonal employer scheme from the Department of Labour and Immigration New Zealand.