There is a significant reliance on migrant labour to keep some areas of the industry afloat, and difficulty attracting and retaining an Aotearoa based workforce.

The Bay of Plenty Regional Skills Leadership Group estimates in its Regional Workforce Plan that aquaculture investments in the Eastern Bay of Plenty will create up to 1,000 new jobs in what is a relatively small regional community.  

Migrant labour has traditionally been used to fill a local labour supply issue and Seafood NZ states that New Zealanders’ involvement in the Seafood industry is low and has been declining for some time. Employers continue their struggles to attract and retain staff who are based in New Zealand. In response to this labour shortfall, the government implemented a Ministerial Enquiry into the use of migrant labour in the Seafood industry, which published a report and recommendations in December 2021.  

Concurrent to the Ministerial enquiry, Seafood NZ has commissioned a Workforce Transition Project ­– a two-phase approach producing a 10-year plan to introduce more New Zealanders into the workforce and increase the resilience of the Seafood industry. The Workforce Transition Project is still in draft stage. 

The Ministerial enquiry proposed two broad options for reducing the industry’s reliance on migrant labour – to increase the size of the local workforce, which is complex, and to move towards greater automation of roles within the industry. 

Engagement feedback has told us that the Aquaculture industry is also considering how increased mechanisation and automation technologies can transform the Seafood workforce and what sort of education and training needs will be needed to support this in the future.