RSE increase welcome but more needed

Recent hot conditions have resulted in a huge amount of early growth for Central Otago vineyards.
Photo: ODT files
Central Otago's fruit and wine growers are not getting carried away as local industries toast an amendment to the Government's Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE).

Minister for Immigration Iain Lees-Galloway announced yesterday a cap increase of the temporary visas issued through the RSE scheme which enables the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work.

Bannockburn viticulturist James Dicey said the move was gratefully received but he was critical of the timing.

"It has come quite late in the recruitment cycle - with the amount of paperwork and compliance required to secure these people.

"We'd encourage the Government to be aware of the impact these late announcements do have."

The cap will rise by 3150 over two years to 16,000, including a first-year increase of 1550 to 14,400.

The plan's cap will triple since it was first introduced in 2007, when it was set at 5000.

The flourishing horticulture and viticulture industries have previously appealed for government assistance in the regions to help with labour shortages.

Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby said, overall, it was a positive response but it remained to be seen how much of an allocation Central Otago would receive.

In the 2018-19 season, 867 RSE workers were employed in Otago, according to Immigration Department figures.

"We are one of the smaller regions, as far as the industry is concerned. Whatever happens, I think demand outstrips supply."

For the year ending June 2019, Seasonal Solutions had employed 1400 RSE workers at various times across the South Island and they had earned more than $30million, Ms Axby said.

Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman said it was a move in the right direction but more RSE workers were needed to support horticulture's big growth.

Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group chairman Stephen Jeffery said the announcement was pleasing for a "rapidly enhancing industry".

Chris Denniston, of Springvale Orchards near Alexandra, said it was a fantastic move.

He has about 22 RSE workers and hoped to double his roster over the next couple of years.

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