About 60% of this year's Hawkes Bay apple crop still needs to be picked, and a labour shortage has been extended (Getty Images)

The Bulletin: Will supply and demand save fruit season?

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Seasonal peak hits fruit picking industry, massive data hole revealed in census response rate, and PM shuts down suggestions she’s backing Crusaders change.

It appears pay rates for some seasonal fruit pickers have gone up, reports Stuff. You might recall perennial stories about workers not wanting to take these jobs in the past, because the pay rates didn’t match the expense of getting to where the work was, or just the time in general. Last year pay rates were estimated at around $21 an hour, which was in and of itself an improvement on previous years. Now the industry is scrambling to find enough people for the upcoming seasonal peak, and pay rates have risen to a reported average of about $23.50 an hour, which is significantly higher than minimum wage. Supply and demand eh?

A labour shortage has been declared for Bay of Plenty kiwifruit picking, and an existing labour shortage for Hawke’s Bay apple picking has been extended by the Ministry for Social Development. Around the peak of the harvest, in mid to late April, there is expected to be a shortage of around 3800 workers – way up on last season.

A labour shortage being declared allows visitor visa-holders to work those jobs. 90% of the kiwifruit crop is still to be picked, along with about 60% of the apple crop. Looking at the Backpacker Board job listings, there’s a massive number of spots available. But an extremely small number of them appear to be offering pay rates as high as $23.50 (some have $16.50 per hour at the low end of their scale, which is below the new minimum wage.) Employers have previously expressed concern about the impact a higher minimum wage will have on labour-heavy industries like horticulture, so simply not paying it is one way around it I suppose. Workplace activists like Chloe-Ann King have long been drawing attention to this as an issue.

As well as that, an extremely low number of the listings also offer accommodation. For both backpackers and beneficiaries interested in working, that can be crucial. Because of that, it’s possible that even on higher wages, the jobs still won’t be seen by potential workers as being socially or economically worth doing. They’re related questions, but for some potential workers, it’s like considering being away from family for a month, having to cover all your own accommodation and food costs far from home while still paying rent on your normal place of residence, and ending up coming back with a relatively small amount of money in the pocket. For some, those sums just won’t add up.


A massive ‘data hole’ has been revealed, with the chief statistician releasing information on the response rate to the census. Radio NZ reports that it shows up to one in seven people didn’t completely fill out the forms. As well as that, the partial response rate – where some questions were answered but not others – had doubled compared to the previous census. As I said on Monday, there is a lot of blame that will deservedly go around a lot of senior politicians after this disastrous result.


PM Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Sport Grant Robertson have flatly and furiously denied pushing for a Crusaders name change. In fact, to say it is a denial is an understatement – they say there is no truth to the report whatsoever to the point where a spokesperson for the PM said she hadn’t even expressed a private view on the matter, reports the NZ Herald. Crusaders CEO Colin Mansbridge also says the story isn’t true. The original report was based on unnamed sources within the Crusaders organisation. That story (which was in yesterday’s Bulletin) has been removed from the NZ Herald’s website.


The End of Life Choice bill is likely to have significant amendments added, after a bruising Select Committee process. Radio NZ reports ACT leader David Seymour, the sponsor of the bill, intends to add that only those who are terminally ill will be able to take up the option. As well as that, he’s backing a confirmatory referendum. Public opposition to the bill has been fierce but not necessarily widespread. About 200 people from Pacific communities rallied at parliament yesterday against it.


The ODT have published a fantastic and comprehensive feature into the intricacies of trees being used for carbon sequestering. In particular, it looks at the role of permanent forests, as opposed to rotational forests, whereby trees are grown, cut down and replanted in cycles lasting a few decades. The piece from Maureen Howard is a fantastic piece of context building, amid the government’s Billion Trees Programme – which by the way, the planting numbers are relatively good on.

Meanwhile, here’s an interesting technical development in terms of foreign ownership of forests. Stuff reports Overseas Investment rule changes have streamlined the process for overseas owners to buy forests – that’s in simplified terms at least. But to get that fast tracking, buyers have to promise to also plant new trees.


Here’s one way to deal with a measles outbreak: health authorities in New York have ordered mandatory vaccinations for some, reports AP. Certain schools have also been ordered to exclude unvaccinated children. They’re pretty extreme measures, and a state judge blocked an an even more extreme measure – to exclude unvaccinated kids from all public places. Back in New Zealand, cases are continuing to increase in Auckland, and have now also appeared around Mt Maunganui in Tauranga, reports One News.


The nominations are in for the Voyager Media Awards, and there are some monster categories. The reporter categories especially will be horrific to have to judge – I found myself reading the lists and changing my mind about who should win with each new name. We’re rather proud over here at The Spinoff too, because we’re up for Website of the Year, along with a bunch of other nominations for some of our people.


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Ruia Morrison

Right now on The Spinoff: The story of Ruia Morrison is one of the more remarkable in the trope of Kiwi battlers taking on the world. But recognition for the first NZ woman to compete (and compete brilliantly too) at Wimbledon has been scant. So she’s the perfect person for episode 1 of The Spinoff’s brand new webseries Scratched: Aotearoa’s Lost Sporting Legends. It’s very cool and you can watch it here.

As well as that Anke Richter, a celebrated journalist and German immigrant, writes about how shockingly tolerant New Zealand has often been in tolerating the imagery of neo-Nazism. Leonie Hayden pays tribute to the life and legacy of activist, actor and advocate Anzac Wallace. Alex Casey unpacks the supposed rules for women in public, as expressed by stories in the news. Oskar Howell reviews the new game Apex Legends which appears to be set to challenge Fortnite for its crown. And we’ve got a new guest sportswriter Trevor McKewen, who has been Head of Sport at pretty much every NZ media company – his first piece is about the dramatic change in thinking apparent at Sky TV.


NBA star Kyle Korver has made a dramatic intervention into debates around race in the USA. Korver, who plays for the Utah Jazz, is white. What he wrote for the Players Tribune is a thorough an comprehensive exploration of what it means to be white, in a league that is majority African-American, and a country where racial injustices remain commonplace. Many of the points made aren’t exactly a long way away from where New Zealand is at either. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks. It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.

And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege. It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them.

But I look like the other guy. And whether I like it or not? I’m beginning to understand how that means something.

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.


Could Manchester City win the quadruple? The BBC reports their manager Pep Guardiola isn’t giving his team good odds of doing so, despite being in the sort of position where they are actually still in the race for four tournaments (FA Cup, EPL, Champions League, and a Carabao Cup win in the bag.) In fact the last time a team was in such a position was a decade ago. However, despite being moneyed to the gills, Manchester City face a hugely challenging run home, needing to win pretty much every EPL game to leap past Liverpool, and with 7 other tough teams still in the Champions League.

Also in football, overnight the Football Ferns beat Norway 1-0. Their opponents are ranked 12th in the world, and it’s the first time the Ferns have beat a higher ranked opponent in three years. Good signs ahead of the World Cup.

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