Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Seasonal worker increase approved after assurances on jobs for Kiwis

The Government is boosting the number of seasonal worker visa approvals. Hawke's Bay Today photograph by Warren Buckland.
The Government is boosting the number of seasonal worker visa approvals. Hawke's Bay Today photograph by Warren Buckland.

A thousand more seasonal workers will be let into New Zealand, after the Government sought assurances that job opportunities for Kiwis would "continue to be maximised".

The cap on foreigners who can work seasonally in horticulture and viticulture will increase from 9500 to 10,500 for the 2016/17 season.

Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the horticulture and viticulture industries had estimated they needed an additional 2500 workers for the upcoming season.

"The increase of 1000 recognised seasonal employer (RSE) workers shows the Government is committed to enabling the industry to continue to grow and maximise export returns, while ensuring jobs aren't being taken from New Zealanders."

He said the increase was agreed to on the understanding the industry "continues to maximise opportunities for New Zealanders, particularly in regions with relatively high unemployment".

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley said about 500 beneficiaries were taking part in a seasonal work scheme, and further initiatives were being developed.

"In 2015, MSD placed over 4000 people in the agriculture industry across New Zealand, which includes the horticulture and viticulture industries. HortNZ figures show that this sector employs around 60,000 people annually."

Last month the Government announced it was trimming the number of migrants getting residency.

Changes included temporarily closing the parent category to new applications and reducing the number of places for family members of migrants from 5500 a year to 2000 a year.

To enter under the parent category, a person must prove they or the child sponsoring them to come to New Zealand has enough income to support them financially.

At the time, Labour leader Andrew Little said the decision to trim numbers was a "flip flop" by National.

"They're doing it under pressure. Ever since the surge in immigration we've been saying there is a growing number of issues and it became apparent this year that those issues were getting acute."

NZ First leader Winston Peters has campaigned most strongly for a significant cut to immigration, which has been at record highs.

The pressure new arrivals are putting on key infrastructure and housing has seen even the Green Party call for a more "sustainable" policy based on about 1 per cent of population growth.

Net migration, as measured by Statistics NZ through arrival and departure cards, was at 69,100 in the year to August, and includes visitors on working holidays and temporary work or study visas who arrive for more than a year as well as the number of New Zealanders who intend staying away for more than a year.

- NZ Herald

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