30 January 2009

NZ preparing for influx of seasonal workers

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Recruiters have reported an increased interest from Solomon Island workers wanting to work in the horticultural regions of New Zealand, reports the Solomon Star.

Over 700 workers are likely to be sent to work in New Zealand by October this year, and as many as 200 are prepared to go within the next four weeks.

New Zealand’s Community Reference Group member, Catherine Sheardown, said she and her team have been run off their feet trying to help their local workers emigrate to New Zealand.

"We have been busy going through our selection process and immigration clearance with some workers already identified to travel on 13 February," she said.

Ms Sheardown said the influx of workers would mean more New Zealand farms could become involved with the overseas workers scheme, meaning they would provide more profitability for the New Zealand economy and local communities.

"Solomon Islanders are strong and dedicated workers," she said.

"Already a lot of farms are showing interest in recruiting more workers from the Solomon Islands."

Similar to the new Pacific Islander guest worker pilot scheme being introduced to Australia this year, the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme allows up to 5,000 foreign nationals on a temporary New Zealand working visa to work in horticultural and viticultural regions of the country that are suffering from labour shortages.

The scheme ensures the local workforce is exhausted before looking to the overseas market, where nationals from Pacific Forum countries are given priority.  Last year, 4,641 people worked under the RSE scheme, and 78 per cent of these were from Pacific Forum countries.

Mr Cosgrove praised the scheme for its crucial contribution to the New Zealand economy. 

“The uptake of RSE has exceeded expectations. It has received strong support from employers who have been able to meet labour needs in industries that have previously experienced routine shortages. For example, for the first time in many years there were no public concerns about labour shortages during the busy apple harvests in Nelson and Hawkes Bay," Mr Cosgrove said. "Likewise RSE is providing our Pacific neighbours with new opportunities and income for their people."

As a result of a review in to the scheme, Immigration New Zealand will be making several changes, including an improvement of pre-departure information for RSE workers, increased cross-cultural communication, allowing workers to switch RSE employers, and legislating that employers provide evidence of all pays given to RSE workers for investigatory purposes.

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