Plans to boost seasonal workers

A new programme aiming to get more Kiwis into seasonal work and an increase to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) cap has been welcomed by Horticulture New Zealand.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse announced the changes last week..

Under the RSE scheme, Pacific Islanders are permitted to enter this country as seasonal employees to fill horticulture and viticulture jobs. When the scheme came into effect in 2007, it had a cap of 5000 but that was increased to 8000 five years ago.

Mr Woodhouse said the need to raise the cap from 8000 to 9000 shows the success of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

''There's no doubt that the growth in the horticulture and viticulture industry in the past few years would not have been possible without RSE, which has been widely praised locally and internationally.''

The horticulture and viticulture industry was forecasting an employment growth of more than 3000 jobs in the next financial year.

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Peter Silcock welcomed the change and said they had been asked to be directly involved in the development of the programmes aimed at getting more Kiwis into seasonal work.

Rural Contractors New Zealand believed that the boost to seasonal workers was essential to delivering the horticulture industry's forecasted future growth but had suggested a similar scheme be put in place for the rural contracting sector.

Rural Contractors New Zealand president Steve Levet said the rural contracting sector needed similar provisions put in place as there was a gap for rural contractors' needs for trained, agricultural machinery operators and unemployed New Zealanders who could do this work.

''The rules around employing temporary, skilled people from overseas prepared to work for six to eight months each year need to be simplified as do the regulations restricting people who have previously worked here in past seasons coming back to New Zealand to work.''