Growers delighted cap on Island workers lifted

Michael Woodhouse.
Michael Woodhouse.
Pacific Islanders are a vital component of New Zealand's horticulture and viticulture industries and growers are relieved more workers from those countries will be helping cater for the growth in those sectors.

A bumper year is predicted for both cherries and grapes and growers are delighted the cap on the recognised seasonal employer (RSE) scheme has been lifted by 1000 workers to 10,500 for the coming season.

The expansion of the scheme was announced yesterday by Minister of Immigration Michael Woodhouse and followed lobbying and growth data from horticulture and viticulture industry leaders.

A paper released by the Ministry for Primary Industries two years ago predicted the two industries would need an extra 7800 workers by 2025.

Under the RSE scheme, Pacific Islanders are permitted to enter New Zealand as seasonal employees to fill jobs in those sectors.

To be eligible for the RSE scheme, employers have to prove they have engaged with Work and Income to try to find New Zealanders to fill the roles.

Central Otago Winegrowers Association president James Dicey said there was significant growth in the horticulture and viticulture sectors and the RSE workers were a vital component.

''Based on the growth in the industries, we'll certainly need those extra workers and, in fact, they'll all be allocated to jobs before they get here.

''They're a hugely massive part of what we do; there's not enough Kiwis available when we need them, to do this work.''

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said the RSE scheme was vital, especially at harvest time.

'' ... it is a win-win initiative that gives horticulture and viticulture a critical workforce at its busiest time, while allowing workers from mostly the Pacific Islands to gain invaluable experience and the chance of being able to send money back to their communities at home.

''Some of our growers have had the same workers coming for the duration of the RSE scheme and they have close bonds. This is a fantastic scheme and it is not taking away any local jobs.''

Mr Woodhouse said the two sectors were New Zealand's fourth-largest export industry, producing almost $5billion in exports, he said.

''The industry has forecast an additional 2500 workers will be needed for the upcoming season.

''The increase of 1000 RSE workers shows the Government is committed to enabling the industry to continue to grow and maximise export returns, while ensuring jobs aren't being taken from New Zealanders.''

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