What is the RSE scheme? 

The New Zealand Government’s Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme has been in place since 2007. 

Government-run, the scheme allows employers within the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit a capped number of workers from overseas – predominantly from the Pacific – for seasonal work in New Zealand.

In September 2023, the Government increased the cap on Pacific workers for the 2023/24 season to 19,500, so employers could access more labour to help with planting, maintenance, harvesting, packing and winter pruning. This cap is reviewed annually by the New Zealand government and signed off by the immigration minister.

From 1 October 2023, the minimum pay for RSE workers is $24.97 per hour, this will increase whenever the New Zealand minimum wage increases in the future.

The RSE scheme is a mutually beneficial partnership supporting the economies and communities of both Pacific nations and New Zealand. Pacific workers earn an income to improve their and family's livelihood while at the same time receiving mentoring and training (transferable skills) that they can take home to begin their own business ventures. 

At the same time, the RSE scheme supports New Zealand growing businesses during peak harvest times. This enables horticulture and viticulture industries to employ New Zealanders in skilled, full-time positions.

The scheme has been recognised by the World Bank as one of the leading labour migrant schemes.

RSE scheme requirements

Employers must meet a stringent set of government criteria to be granted RSE status (accreditation).

RSE status is only granted where employers meet the specific standards set out by Immigration New Zealand (INZ) such as evidence of their financial position, a demonstration of good employment practices, as well as a commitment to training and employing New Zealanders.

Once granted RSE status, employers must apply for an Agreement to Recruit (ATR) to bring Pacific workers into the country for seasonal work up to seven months in any eleven-month period.

Under this ATR, employers must meet further obligations set out by INZ, including but not limited to satisfactory pastoral care, fulfilment of health and safety requirements and suitable accommodation and onsite facilities.

Read the full RSE status requirements here      Read the full ATR requirements here      Visit Immigration NZ

Horticulture industry RSE videos

Watch RSE workers share their experiences of working in New Zealand. Voices of the Pacific videos by HortNZ and the Pacific Cooperation Foundation.