NZ visa changes will allow stranded Pacific Islands fruit pickers to work other jobs

In a national announcement by Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, he stated that Hawke's Bay's Recognised Seasonal Employers and migrant seasonal workers will now be able to continue working and supporting themselves with more flexible hours and roles.

Lees-Galloway also announced the cap on the number of workers allowed into NZ scheme will no longer rise as intended next year. Each year up to 14,400 workers, mainly from Pacific Island nations, arrive in New Zealand to fill seasonal labour shortages in the horticulture and viticulture industries.

Lees-Galloway said around 9,000 seasonal workers were still in New Zealand, a number of those stranded with no flights home and no way to support themselves after the harvest season had ended.

"The Government is supporting Pacific Island governments to repatriate their citizens but many are expected to remain in New Zealand for some time," he said. "RSE visas limit workers to specific work, which is now drying up. The RSE scheme is part of our special relationship with the Pacific. As a country, we have a responsibility to support these workers and their employers, whose pastoral care responsibilities include accommodation for the workers."

Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman said while HortNZ welcomed increased government support and flexibility for RSE workers who are still in New Zealand waiting for repatriation back to the Pacific, the decisions should have come a lot earlier.


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