National’s spokesperson for Rural Communities Nicola Grigg claims the Government’s financial policy is piling pressure on the primary industries.
The programme was announced in February by Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor and Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio.
O'Connor says the Akongoue: Pasifika Horticulture Programme will introduce Pacific youth to the wide range of career options across the horticulture sector.
"In terms of exports, horticulture is one of New Zealand's fastest growing sectors, with the sector's exports forecast to reach $6.9 billion this financial year and expected to grow further," he adds.
"We have been investing significantly in partnership with the sector in new technology and increasing sustainability. For a young person that means exciting career opportunities."
O'Connor says these range from practical jobs like planting and harvesting, through to roles in biodiversity and sustainability, green and digital technologies, engineering, sales and marketing, research and science, and manufacturing and logistics.
The programme is a collaboration between the Ministry for Primary Industries, the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, Tongan Youth Trust, the Sector Workforce Engagement Programme (MBIE), and training organisation New Zealand Sports Turf Institute (NZSTI).
Sio claims it will broaden horizons and reward young Pacific people.
"There is huge potential for our Pacific youth to build lifelong, fulfilling careers in horticulture. This programme is the first step," he says.
"It will help our youth to appreciate and consider the land as a source of life, connecting them with the cultural and indigenous knowledge of previous generations."
Learning will include both time in the classroom and practical activities one day per week in a safe, inclusive learning environment.
Mentors and buddies will help participants get the best out of the programme.
As well as introducing Pacific youth to different horticulture roles, the programme will also contribute to NCEA Level 2/3 (up to 43 credits), and provide important skills, for example in first aid and health and safety.
Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni says students will also interact with a network of industry employers to help with further learning and potential employment opportunities.
"The Akongoue: Pasifika Horticulture Programme is an opportunity to bring together Pacific youth, their Kainga (families), and schools," she says.
"It will help them to identify horticulture career opportunities that offer progression to tertiary studies, employment, diversity, mobility, and financial reward."
O'Connor adds that the programme will equip Pacific youth with important skills and qualifications.
"It will also help excite and attract our Pacific youth into a horticulture career to build life-long prosperity for themselves, and their families."