28 February 2022, New Zealand: New Zealand’s fruit, vegetable and winegrape growers have welcomed the news that the Government has increased the cap on workers from the Pacific under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme to 16,000 workers.
‘The increase in the RSE worker cap will give growers some hope for the future,’ says HortNZ chief executive, Nadine Tunley.
‘While the increase won’t benefit the apple, kiwifruit and winegrape harvests that are currently underway, it is good news for the horticulture industry, long term.
‘Growers are under incredible stress at the moment due to the severe shortage of labour that Covid has created. Some growers are saying they only have 50 percent of the workers they need but are continuing to do everything they can, to get the fruit picked, packed and to market.
‘RSE workers have been steadily arriving, which is a testament to all parties given Covid challenges and the Tongan tsunami. We hope to reach the current cap of 14,400 in time for this season, as the apple and kiwifruit harvests reach their peaks, and winegrape growers start winter pruning.’
Nadine says the RSE scheme is very much win-win for the Pacific and New Zealand.
‘Money earned and skills learned in New Zealand are taken back to the Pacific, which is even more important today given the impact of Covid on the Pacific’s tourism industry and communities. In 2018, the RSE scheme saw the Pacific benefit by more than $40 million.
‘In terms of the benefit to New Zealand, workers from the Pacific have enabled the industry to grow and create hundreds of permanent jobs for New Zealanders, across the regions.’