New Zealand increases cap on seasonal workers

The cap for New Zealand's Regional Seasonal Employer (R.S.E.) scheme will be increased by 1,550 places this year.

The increase, announced by the New Zealand Government, means more seasonal job opportunities to Samoan and Pacific workers.

This brings the total number of opportunities available for seasonal workers to 14,400. In the years 2018 to 2019, some 2315 of those workers came from Samoa.

The Minister of Immigration New Zealand, Iain Lees-Galloway, also announced the increase in seasonal worker opportunities for next year - 2020 to 2021 - of up to 1,600 places.

The increase announcement comes six months after Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sa’ilele Malielegaoi again requested New Zealand to increase its 11,000 quota on the number of Pacific Island employees hired under R.S.E. scheme.

The 11,000 quota includes all R.S.E. workers from Samoa and nine other Pacific Island Forum countries such as Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and others to cater for New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture labour demands.

In a media statement released, Galloway said the government is making progress in helping the region thrive by increasing the number of workers going to New Zealand.

"We are helping our regions’ growers to plan ahead and get the support they need. For the first time we are announcing a two-year increase to the R.S.E. quota. This will help address industry concerns that a lack of certainty on R.S.E. numbers makes it hard for them to plan for labour needs and accommodation requirements," he said.

"The cap increase set for 2020/21 is conditional on the industry proving it’s making the horticulture and viticulture sectors easier and more attractive for Kiwi workers to work in. They’ll also have to up their game and make sure there is more accommodation built for their workers."

Golloway said he challenged the industry to stop exploitation of seasonal workers, to do more to employ New Zealanders [and] consider paying workers more consider automation, build accommodation for additional workers as they plant extra crops.

"Take responsibility for your supply chains to stamp out exploitation," he said.

"New Zealand is dealing with a housing crisis left to us by the previous government. So, this year restrictions will be placed on the further use of residential rental housing by R.S.E. employers to accommodate R.S.E. workers.

"I continue to encourage the industry to do more to accommodate its workforce and make sure Kiwis aren’t squeezed out of local housing by an increase in the R.S.E. cap"

Although in a media statement from Horticulture New Zealand, they say the move to increase cap is good but it is still not enough.

Horticulture New Zealand says in order to support horticulture's big growth, the 1,550 increase this year is not enough.

"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 R.S.E. 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."

Classical-liberal political party in New Zealand, ACT New Zealand also put out a media statement following the announcement that it came "too little too late"

ACT New Zealand says that with the late announcement and harvesting season for some crops so soon, chances are that some employers won't be able to employ extra workers.

It is said that ACT Leader David Seymour questioned the Minister for Immigration in Parliament last week, but employers’ claims were brushed aside as being a minority, despite multiple employers who collectively employ over 2500 New Zealanders writing to him.

"Given only 1500 more workers than last season will be allowed, it is possible some employers will not be able to get any extra workers this season,” says Seymour.

"Last year, growers reported up to a quarter of their crops rotting in the ground and lost export orders due to labour shortages caused by the lack of workers. 

"The announcement of a cap on RSE workers at this time in the year is unworkable for some growers whose crops happen to ripen early.” 

Tuilaepa since 2014 has publicly pushed the New Zealand Government to lift the quota noting that the R.S.E. has more than serve it purpose by alleviating labour shortage in New Zealand for her horticulture and viticulture industry and at the same time injecting new money and hope for families in the islands. 

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