Horticulture industry welcomes increase in overseas seasonal workers

The horticulture and viticulture industries are welcoming the Government's decision to allow more overseas seasonal workers into New Zealand.

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme cap will increase by 1,750 to 12,850.

The scheme, which has been in place since 2007, allows employers to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.

New Zealand Winegrowers said the move will help support the wine industry during peak times.

"Although the wine industry is focused on placing Kiwis into work, there is often a shortfall and RSE workers ease some of that pressure," said Jeffrey Clarke, general manager advocacy at New Zealand Winegrowers.

"The access to labour through the RSE scheme over the last 11 years has supported the wine industry and contributed to export growth," he said.

Mr Clarke also said the industry recognises that the RSE scheme comes with responsibilities towards the RSE workers and takes them very seriously.

Meanwhile Horticulture New Zealand is also welcoming the change, as the sector gears up for the upcoming busy fruit harvest season.

"Horticulture is growing rapidly and, combined with wine, we are an industry earning more than $8.8 billion, this includes more than $5.1 billion of exports," said chief executive Mike Chapman.

"While kiwifruit and apples are the most sought after, we are seeing huge growth in demand for avocados and cherries, as well as some berries."

During harvest and pruning periods around 30,000 workers are required by the industry, and about one-third of these workers come from the RSE scheme.

"It is a mature scheme which sees workers come from the Pacific Islands for set periods of time," said Mr Chapman.

He said unemployment in New Zealand is at a low level which makes people who are willing to do outdoor physical work in short supply.

"Our industry is running a lot of programmes designed to get New Zealanders into work, but in the South Island during harvest there are virtually no New Zealanders available," he said.

The majority of RSE workers are in New Zealand from March through to May for the kiwifruit and apple harvests.