A new report looking at the benefits of New Zealand's seasonal migrant schemes in the horticulture industry has found "little good evidence" recent large increases in temporary workers have boosted long-term productivity for the sector.
The report by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) examined the effect of increased temporary migration to New Zealand on the industry.
It concluded that while there were some positive impacts from the recognised seasonal employer (RSE) programme, "claims the RSE scheme constitutes an unquestioned 'triple win' for the workers, their employers and the New Zealand economy as a whole are hard to support based on the evidence collected to date".
The RSE scheme allows employers in the horticulture industry to give seasonal jobs to workers from nine Pacific countries. Initially when the scheme was introduced in 2007 there was a cap of 5000 workers but that has since increased to 14,400.
The report - which was commissioned by the New Zealand Productivity Commission - said while the size and output of the country's horticulture sector had increased in recent years, little is known about its overall productivity.
The report's authors Peter Wilson and Julie Fry concluded that rather than only bringing benefits to New Zealand, the country's temporary migration policy might also be having some negative effects in the long term.
"What we found was there's not actually a lot of good economic evidence about the effect of temporary and seasonal migrants on the host economies, and that's a concern because New Zealand has considerably increased its numbers of temporary migrants over the last 10 years," co-author Peter Wilson told RNZ on Tuesday.
"What we think needs to happen is that employers, with help from the Government, need to look at are there innovative ways to pick fruit that involve more capital, more technology that might make it less necessary to rely on physical labour to do things."
The report called for a review of the RSE scheme - using an economic approach - and suggested additional research be conducted to measure the true long-term economic impact of the programme.