Horticulture New Zealand says the Government is moving in the right direction with its 1550 increase in Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) workers, but more RSE workers are still needed to support horticulture’s big growth.
‘RSE workers are playing a key role in the horticulture industry’s continued growth in response to rising export and domestic demand,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.
‘New Zealand’s horticulture export revenue jumped 13.7 percent to $6.1 billion in the year to 30 June 2019. It’s expected to grow by another 3.8 percent to $6.3 billion in the current financial year.
‘This growth is why we asked the Government for an even greater increase in RSE worker numbers, to support our growth and make up for the shortage of available New Zealanders workers, particularly during peak times like harvesting and pruning.
‘However, it is good to have certainty for the current season plus next season, the Government has provisionally announced that another 1600 RSE workers will be added, pushing the total from 14,400 this season to 16,000.’
RSE is the name for the Pacific Island seasonal labour scheme where workers from the Pacific come to New Zealand for six to seven months for harvest and pruning. Once that work is done, they return home to their families in the Pacific.
The RSE scheme has enabled the continued expansion of fruit, vegetable and wine grape growing in New Zealand. It has also enabled people in the Pacific to earn money that they would otherwise not have earned.
The availability of RSE workers also gives certainty to New Zealand businesses so they can continue to grow and employ additional permanent New Zealand workers.
The New Zealand RSE scheme has been acknowledged by the World Bank as one of the best labour mobility schemes in the world because of the positive impact in the Pacific.
In the previous season, Pacific RSE workers earned more than $NZ 50 million. The money earned and skills learned in New Zealand enable the workers to support the education of their families, build sustainable houses and village facilities, and to set up businesses back in the Pacific.