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Horticulture Industry Appreciates Government’s Decision On RSE Workers

The horticulture industry says it is appreciative of the Government’s decision to let 2000 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers from the Pacific into New Zealand under strict quarantine and employment conditions.

‘Horticulture has an enormous contribution to make to New Zealand’s economic recovery if it can pick and pack its crops when they are ready to harvest so they can be exported in top quality condition and command premium prices,’ says HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

‘While the timing of the Government’s decision means that spring and early summer crops have missed out, growers across the country are relieved that some of the essential workers needed from low Covid risk Pacific countries are being let it.

‘The 2000 RSE workers is a positive start to addressing current seasonal labour issues but we also need to start planning for spring 2021 and harvest 2022.’

Since April, HortNZ has worked tirelessly and in partnership with key RSE employer product groups - New Zealand Apples and Pears, New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated, and Summerfruit New Zealand - to get agreement from Government officials and Ministers to allow RSE workers in. These groups will continue to work together with the Government to improve future arrangements.

Mr Chapman says New Zealanders are the first priority for employment in the horticulture industry.

‘While more New Zealanders will be available for picking and packing this season, the industry is still facing a significant shortfall of seasonal workers.

‘That is why horticulture will continue to work with the Government to identify opportunities to return more RSE workers to New Zealand, as Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) capacity allows.

‘The horticulture industry will also continue to run its highly successful programmes to attract and retain New Zealanders, not just for seasonal work but for rewarding and well-paying careers.’

New Zealanders already make up half the seasonal workforce, thanks to these attraction programmes, bonuses for completing the season, and support like transport, accommodation and meals (click here to find out more).

A survey about the 2019 harvest found that nearly half the New Zealand workers were offered accommodation, and three out of four were offered transport (source: Recognised Seasonal Worker Survey 2020, page 6).

The rest of the seasonal workforce is traditionally made up of RSE workers and overseas backpackers.

RSE workers coming from the Pacific next year will undergo the same MIQ as all entrants to New Zealand.

‘The horticulture industry will cooperate fully with the Government on their entry and exit, to ensure the safety of New Zealanders,’ says Mr Chapman.

‘At the same time, let’s not forget that the entry of RSE workers into New Zealand is also important for Pacific economies, which have been severely affected by the lack of tourism due to Covid. More than $40 million was returned to the Pacific in 2018 as a result of the RSE scheme.’

To find out more about the RSE scheme and how it has also helped get thousands of New Zealanders into permanent work in the horticulture sector, you can view four short videos here:

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