Pickers at Glen Grove Orchards. Photo/Gayndah Fruitpickers
Pickers at Glen Grove Orchards. Photo/Gayndah Fruitpickers

Gayndah calls on local labourers to overcome workforce woes

Each year as citrus season approaches in the North Burnett, overseas backpackers looking to secure a second year on their Working Holiday Visa are eager to get picking.

But with COVID keeping visitors out of Australia, local producers are struggling to find enough willing workers to ensure the upcoming citrus season is a success.

To combat the lagging labour force, Gayndah Fruitgrowers - a community organisation representing the interests of citrus fruit growers in Gayndah - are taking matters into their own hands, proactively calling upon 500 workers to pick this seasons crop.

Citrus grower and Gayndah Fruitgrowers secretary Judy Shepherd said local producers launched the campaign in an attempt to attract a more domestic workforce, as well as travellers still living in the Queensland, to the North Burnett.

"The season is about to start in the next two or three weeks," Ms Shepherd said.

"The feedback from other regions is that it's been a bit of a nightmare and we're trying to see if we can circumvent that by getting in early and offering a really good long season."

"We all got together earlier in the year and thought, well, we can sit back and wait for the government to tell us they're going to fix it or we can try solve some of our own problems."

While there has been some domestic interest, Ms Shepherd said finding a place to stay has proved problematic for some, given how flexible backpackers typically are when it comes to accommodation.

"Our backpackers are very mobile and very self-contained. They can up and drop everything and go somewhere else when need be," she said.

"They don't have the ties that our local people have, but they also often have all of their own accommodation pretty well sorted out."

Despite the hurdle, Ms Shepherd said Gayndah was lucky in that it was a very desirable place to work given the length of the fruit picking season, which would hopefully draw more prospective pickers to the region.

"The season will go from the end of March through to October, and for people who work well, learn the technique and put decent effort into it, they can make some seriously good money," Ms Shepherd said.

"We've also got a very good reputation for fair and equitable employers."

To apply, contact Judy Shepherd at sheps@bigpond.com.

South Burnett


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