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Seasonal Work Permit Pilot extended to September

Hon David Cunliffe
Minister of Immigration

Seasonal Work Permit Pilot extended to September

More overseas workers will be available to meet seasonal labour peaks in the horticulture and viticulture industry this year, says Immigration Minister David Cunliffe.

"In December 2005 a seasonal work permit pilot was launched to run until July 2006, as a further avenue for meeting the industry's labour needs in the peak season," Mr Cunliffe said.

"However, industry has signalled the season will go on for longer than expected – so in response we're extending the pilot to September 2006.

"This way, we're providing a responsive, fast and efficient process to help meet the immediate labour needs of one of our most vital industries - while ensuring the employment of New Zealanders remains a top priority."

Under the extension to the Seasonal Work Permit pilot, current permit holders can apply to renew their permits, ensuring workers who have already gained skills and employment can continue to provide labour where needed.

Overseas workers from visa free countries and those in New Zealand on 24 March 2006 can also apply for permits – meaning a new pool of workers is available to meet demand, the minister said.

"Ongoing assessments by the Ministry of Social Development mean we have a clear picture of labour supply in each region and are able to add or remove regions throughout the course of the pilot.

"Feedback from growers indicates this scheme is working well and that about 1,100 permits have been granted to date. And now that Western Bay of Plenty has joined Nelson, Marlborough, Central Otago and Hawke's Bay as regions experiencing extreme labour shortages, it's clear that employers are reaping the benefits of the pilot.

"However, it's important to recognise that this is a short term measure to help address immediate labour shortages - operating in tandem with other measures to help employers access workers, such as Approval in Principles, variation of conditions on visitors' permits, and the Working Holiday Schemes."


Background information on the Seasonal Work Permit pilot:

In December 2005 a seasonal work permit (SWP) pilot was launched. Permits were available to workers in areas of the horticulture/viticulture industry experiencing extreme labour shortages. Permits were originally valid until July 2006.

Under the extension to the policy, permits will be granted to allow a maximum stay of up to 30 September 2006.

Applicants who hold SWPs will be able to apply for a second SWP so that they can continue to work until 30 September 2006.

Under the pilot extension, further SWPs can be granted to people from visa-free countries, or to people from visa-required countries present in New Zealand on a valid temporary permit on 24 March 2006.

As with other work permit applications, SWP applicants must meet health and character requirements in order to be granted a permit.

The Department of Labour is working to simplify the process for applying for a Seasonal Work Permit, and will continue to aim to provide a 48 hour turnaround for applications.

The following regions have been declared as experiencing an extreme labour shortage:

· Western Bay of Plenty
· Marlborough
· Nelson
· Central Otago
· Hawke's Bay

This list of regions may change, depending on the employment situation within each region throughout the course of the pilot, as assessed by MSD. Further announcements about other regions of absolute shortage will be announced as they are identified by MSD.

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