University of Waikato's John Gibson has stated that it’s time to start giving credit to the seasonal pickers, packers and pruners for the role they play in the NZ economy.
The NZ government recently announced increases in the cap for visas under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. After the second increase, the scheme will allow up to 16,000 workers to come in the 2020/21 season. These seasonal workers are mainly from the Pacific, and come to pick and pack fruit, to prune, and to carry out other labour-intensive tasks in the horticulture and viticulture industries.
This increase comes as the kiwifruit industry faces the possibility of fruit rotting on the vines if there are not enough workers to pick it. And they aren’t the only export industry facing a shortage. In February, a lack of workers for the 2019 Hawkes Bay apple harvest led the Ministry of Social Development to declare a seasonal labour shortage in the region. This was then extended in April alongside news of a new shortage in the Bay of Plenty.
No doubt the cap increases sparked arguments about ‘foreigners taking Kiwi jobs’ and raised questions about the benefits of various immigration programmes to New Zealand.
But in reality, the RSE has been a good thing for the country.