Global Agriculture

New Zealand horticulture industry welcomes Government’s decision to bring in more workers from the Pacific

10 May 2021, NZ: The New Zealand horticulture industry has welcomed the Government’s latest move to increase the flow of workers from the Pacific, in support of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. 

‘Pacific workers are an integral part of the horticulture industry’s seasonal workforce, particularly for harvest and winter pruning.  They make up the shortfall in New Zealanders while at the same time, enabling the horticulture industry to grow and employ more New Zealanders in permanent positions,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘Indeed, over the past decade, the New Zealand horticulture industry has grown by 64% to $6.49 billion while in 2019, before Covid struck, more than $40 million was returned to Pacific economies through the RSE scheme. 

‘The RSE scheme is very much a win-win – for the Pacific and for the New Zealand horticulture industry.  That is why the horticulture industry has advocated so vigorously for the scheme to continue and for some sort of Pacific bubble to be formed, given New Zealand’s Pacific partner nations are Covid-free, and we now have a vaccine being rolled out.’    

Mike says the horticulture industry – NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated (NZKGI), NZ Apples & Pears, Summerfruit NZ, NZ Winegrowers, NZ Ethical Employers and HortNZ – negotiated strongly with the Government to reduce the cost to growers and employers of bringing these RSE workers into New Zealand. 

‘We appreciate the Government acknowledging the need for Pacific workers due to the lack of available New Zealand workers.  But we believe the costs to growers and employers for this new cohort are too high, given our own calculations of the actual cost of quarantine, accommodation, and meals, etc.  That is why we pushed hard for the Government to reduce the cost and, while we did achieve some concessions, there was limited room for movement and no agreement was reached. 

‘The industry also strongly believes – for both cultural and health and safety reasons – that shared rooms are the most appropriate accommodation for Pacific workers, and that isolating the workers in single rooms is not the best option. 

‘Given the high cost to growers and employers, they will need to make their own business decisions on whether to participate in this cohort of Pacific workers,’ says Mike.