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Seasonal workers cap increase good news for Pacific

06 November 2018

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

The government has increased the number of workers that can come to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employers scheme.

The cap will increase by 1,750 from last year, to a total of 12,850 to provide "much-needed" labour for the horticulture and viticulture sectors.

Photo/ RNZ - Peter Fowler.

In the last financial year majority of the workers came from Vanuatu (4,171), Tonga (1,822) and Samoa (1,690).

Tonga's RSE liaison officer Sefita Hao'uli says the cap increase is smaller than expected, but it's still good news for Pacific countries wanting more work opportunities.

"My understanding and what I know in dealing with employers is that this increase is probably a lot less than what they expected. The demand continues to climb... The New Zealand growers in the sector have reinvested and their businesses have grown and with it of course, the demand for more labour."

"The cap increase will always be welcomed by the labour-sending countries from around the Pacific. There are countries which will continue to ask for more opportunities for their people such as Fiji, Solomons and Papua New Guinea."

"The larger countries from Melanesia will see this as particularly important to them."

Sefita Hao'uli. Photo/ E-Tangata.

After running for 11 years, the RSE scheme has seen benefits for both New Zealand and Pacific governments as well as for labourers. 

According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, the industry generated $5.15 billion in export revenue in 2017 and figures are expected to reach $5.5 billion this year.

However Hao'uli says there's still a gap in the system where labourers are sacrificing much more than they're getting in return.

"One of the issues we continue to look at from the labour-sending countries is that while there's a triple win, a win for the workers, a win for the employers and a win for both the New Zealand and Pacific governments, there ought to be a much fairer share of the winnings."

"Often what we need to do in the Pacific is to weigh up the financial benefit of getting money from the workers in remittances, weigh that up against the fact that they are absent from home, they're absent from their families, they're not available as part of the local labour force back in the Pacific countries... that's a cost that needs to be looked at."

"The workers need to get their fair share of what benefits have been accrued over the years in this very interesting relationship."

The Minister of Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway says the government will be conducting a review of the RSE scheme next year to ensure it delivers improvements and remains consistent with its original intent.