30 September 2008
NZ Minister makes improvements to seasonal worker program
The New Zealand Minister for Immigration Clayton Cosgrove announced yesterday his government will be introducing several improvements to the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.
Similar to the new Pacific Islander guest worker pilot scheme being introduced to Australia this year, the RSE scheme allows up to 5,000 foreign nationals on temporary New Zealand visas 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. This 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.
The Department of Labour will also be looking at how healthcare and training can be improved for RSE workers, and whether liaison officers can assist in better communication between employers and workers.
"These are practical, commonsense steps to make RSE even better for employers and employees," Mr Cosgrove said. "Next season the majority of workers, employers and pastoral care providers will have also have had one season's experience of RSE under their belts, so that will also help employers to meet their obligations and workers to adjust and make the most of their time here."
The Minister said the RSE is making a significant contribution to New Zealand's Pacific neighbours in terms of remittances; in Vanuatu RSE is said to be the second largest source of foreign exchange after tourism, and it is reported that 80 per cent of the monies earned are sent home to help construction and community projects and education.
Immigration New Zealand is also working to improve the immigration system so that more foreign nationals will migrate to New Zealand and ease the skills shortage in the workforce.
The New Zealand Visa Bureau is an independent consulting company specialising in helping people emigrate to New Zealand.
Article by Jessica Bird, New Zealand Visa Bureau.