The NZ government has raised the number of overseas workers, mainly from Pacific nations, allowed into the country for seasonal work in the horticulture and viticulture industries. Under the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme (RSE), up to 12,850 overseas seasonal workers will be able to work in New Zealand during the 2018/19 season.
That is up 1750 from 11,100 the previous season, which started with 5,000 places when the scheme was established in 2007.
Horticulture New Zealand welcomed the move, saying with unemployment in New Zealand at a low level, people willing to do outdoor physical work were in short supply. "Our industry is running a lot of programmes designed to get New Zealanders into work, but in the South Island during harvest there are virtually no New Zealanders available," Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said.
"These are not full-time jobs, which makes them less desirable for New Zealanders, with harvest and winter pruning work available for around six months of the year. The majority of RSE workers are in New Zealand from March through to May for the kiwifruit and apple harvests."
About 30,000 workers were needed for harvesting and pruning work, with about a third of those workers from the RSE scheme.
New Zealand Winegrowers said the move will help support the wine industry during peak times. "Although the wine industry is focused on placing Kiwis into work, there is often a shortfall and RSE workers ease some of that pressure," said Jeffrey Clarke, general manager advocacy at New Zealand Winegrowers. "The access to labour through the RSE scheme over the last 11 years has supported the wine industry and contributed to export growth.”
Clarke also said the industry recognises that the RSE scheme comes with responsibilities towards the RSE workers and takes them very seriously. For Horticulture New Zealand, this is certainly a welcome scheme, with the sector gearing up for the upcoming busy fruit harvest season.