Listening to the Pacific

3 August 2022

More than 400 delegates attended the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) conference in Wellington last week, celebrating 15 years of the RSE scheme. 

The theme, Voices of the Pacific, recognised the valuable partnership between New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture industries, the Pacific and the New Zealand Government, and the commitment to work together as one.

Equally, it was an opportunity to consider how we, collectively, can future proof the scheme to ensure everyone benefits positively from the scheme.

Delegates heard from representatives of Pacific nations on how the RSE scheme is of critical importance to their economies, as well as for evolving their own workforces and talent pools. RSE workers provide the means to support their families and communities. They also gain transferrable skills that can be used to establish their own businesses when they return home.

Growers expressed their gratitude to the Pacific RSE workers who have been welcomed into New Zealand over the past year. Not only has the RSE workforce facilitated keeping New Zealanders in skilled, permanent employment, the scheme has kept local businesses operating and ensured that growers could continue to supply New Zealand and the world with fresh fruit and vegetables.

“The workers are family,” one grower said.

The sentiment across the conference was clear: the RSE scheme is a mutually beneficial and collaborative partnership. However, continued success of the scheme will require further commitment and investment.

How do we continue to finetune the RSE scheme as a world-class labour mobility model that brings certainty to horticulture’s labour needs?

During the conference, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) announced that it will be reviewing the scheme, to ensure the policy that underpins it continues to deliver a win-win model for all.

The pandemic has prompted a reset and has brought industry, government and key RSE stakeholders together, to review the settings and co-design how the scheme will operate in a post-Covid future.

I look forward to being involved in this review with colleagues and growers, to ensure the RSE scheme thrives and develops over the next 15 years. Covid has changed the world and industries like ours must come to terms with those changes. Within this context, there are opportunities, and the RSE scheme is a good example of something that is inherently sound, benefiting all those who are involved.

Let’s leverage the scheme’s advantages and work together to put it on a firm footing for the next 15 years and beyond.