HortNZ welcomes Government’s support of horticulture through immigration changes

22 Sep 2020

Horticulture New Zealand has welcomed the Government’s latest immigration changes, saying they offer support to stranded backpackers and RSE workers as well as the New Zealand horticulture industry at a critical time. 

‘The changes provide stranded backpackers and RSE workers with certainty and options, while acknowledging the importance of the RSE scheme to horticulture and the Pacific,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘At the same time, we welcome the expansion of the Supplementary Seasonal Employment visa, which will allow people on expiring working holiday visas to work in the horticulture and wine industry, where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work.’    

Mike says labour shortages have plagued horticulture for many years. 

‘Covid has exaggerated the situation and put many growers under even more stress.  In some cases, growers have not planted because they didn’t know if they’d have enough people to harvest their crops. 

‘Today’s announcement is good news.  It gives growers across the country some certainty, and they are hopefully more positive about the future. 

‘The announcement supplements horticulture’s commitment to employing New Zealanders – including those displaced by Covid.  Several schemes have been in place for years, to enable and support New Zealanders into horticulture careers. 

‘The announcement also acknowledges the key role that horticulture is in a position to play in New Zealand’s economic and social recovery.  Our industry is the lifeblood of many parts of New Zealand, from Northland to the deep south.  Backpackers and workers from the Pacific enable our industry to meet seasonal peaks such as harvest and pruning, while at the same time offering thousands of New Zealanders permanent employment.’ 

The horticulture industry is now worth more than $6 billion a year to New Zealand. 



More information on the changes:

Click here for information for employers from Immigration NZ. 

Click here to read the Minister of Immigration's announcement.

  • The Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visa will be automatically given to around 11,000 working holiday visa holders in New Zealand with visas expiring between 1 November 2020 and 31 March 2021.
  • These visas will allow them to work in horticulture and viticulture roles, where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do this work.
  • Employers can take on these workers when there are unfilled Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme spaces with an RSE employer, or there are unfilled roles available with an accredited SSE employer
  • Employers will also be able to take on SSE workers for roles in regions specified on a list which the Ministry of Social Development is currently compiling.
  • The changes are for the 2020/21 season only.
  • Government changes will also enable other work visa holders to apply for an SSE visa if they have a job offer from one of these employers or if the job is on the Ministry of Social Development list.
  • In addition, all RSE scheme workers stranded in New Zealand who have been granted a more flexible limited visa to be able to work part-time and do non-RSE work will be able to ‘re-enter’ the RSE scheme and work for an RSE employer with 30 hours per week average pay guaranteed.