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 2022, the Government increased the cap on Pacific workers for the 2022/23 season from 16,000 to 19,000, so employers could access more labour to help with planting, maintenance, harvesting, packing and winter pruning. This cap is reviewed annual by the New Zealand government and signed off by the immigration minister.
The RSE scheme is a mutually beneficial partnership supporting the economies and communities of both Pacific nations and New Zealand. Pacific workers receive training, mentoring and develop skills they can take home to begin their own business ventures, while earning an income that is sent back to their families and the wider community.
At the same time, the RSE scheme supports New Zealand growing businesses during peak harvest times and enables the 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 best migrant labour schemes in the world.
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.
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.
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.
Voices of the Pacific - Tonga
Voices of the Pacific : Tonga. Follow Lisiate Loloma and his brother Taniela as they travel from New Zealand back home to Tonga. They are sons of one of the original Tongan RSE workers to take part in the scheme. Eldest son Lisiate considers his future, now that his father has passed away.
Voices of the Pacific - Samoa
We follow RSE worker Solomona Kelekolio from an apple orchard in Hastings back to Samoa, where he is welcomed home alongside other
seasonal workers by the nation’s Prime Minister and Tuatagaloa Joe Annandale from Poutasi Village.
Voices of the Pacific - Fiji
Aporosa Bulinitarawereierenavula travelled from the Yasawa Islands in Fiji to New Zealand after a cyclone. He talks about the skills he’s gained that have helped him to rebuild his village.
Voices of the Pacific - Vanuatu
Well known RSE worker Peter Bumseng has been coming to New Zealand for 15 years, since the scheme’s inception. While he mentors other Ni-Vanuatu workers in New Zealand, Peter’s wife Regina works with the families of workers in Vanuatu. Their commitment to providing support in each country during separation has given stability to many families.
Voices of the Pacific - Tuvalu
Proud Tuvaluan Keith Taulealea was one of the original RSE workers to come to New Zealand. He has left behind an incredible
legacy not only in Tuvalu, but also in New Zealand where an annual award is given to RSE workers in Keith’s name.