Horticulture worker scheme benefits Pacific Islands by $50 million

A programme which allows overseas workers to be employed in the New Zealand horticulture industry injected $50 million into the Pacific Islands economy last year.

The Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme sees groups of temporary workers come from overseas to work for up to seven months of the year in the horticulture and viticulture industry.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman said as well as the benefit to workers, the scheme also helps the New Zealand's horticulture industry to keep up with production.

'It's because of the scheme's success and vital role in our industry that we would like to see the scheme expand and more Pacific people be able to take up opportunities in New Zealand," he said.

Chapman attended the RSE Conference in Vanuatu last week and said he saw first-hand the huge difference money earned through the scheme makes.

The scheme is a big help to New Zealand growers who are facing a labour shortage.
The scheme is a big help to New Zealand growers who are facing a labour shortage. Photo credit: Supplied

"It is used in the Pacific to build cyclone-resistant housing, pay for education, and set up businesses such as coconut pressing and furniture construction as well as the more common, tourist accommodation and tour businesses," said Chapman.

He said RSE workers also had the opportunity to learn new skills such as house building, outboard motor repair and welding, which they put to good use back home.

"For the horticulture industry in New Zealand, the scheme helps growers find enough people to harvest their fruit and vegetables, particularly at the peak of the season. Without the scheme, the labour shortages our industry face would be a lot worse."

The latest Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) survey of employers in the RSE scheme found that 96 percent agreed that the benefits of participating in the scheme outweighed the costs. 

Employers also continued to rate RSE workers highly in terms of dependability, productivity and enthusiasm.

Chapman said RSE employers in the horticulture industry took their responsibilities seriously. 

"Most go beyond the minimum requirements to ensure that the workers are well looked after and supported in New Zealand, and learn skills that they can take home."