The chairman of Ngati Kahungunu iwi says RSE workers are "rolled in and out like chattels" and have never been asked whether they want to put down roots in Hawke's Bay.
Chairman Ngahiwi Tomoana said he wanted RSE workers to have the option of seeking permanent residency and employment "beyond orchards".
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"They have never been asked whether they would like to settle down here," he said.
"They are rolled in and out like chattels, but they are our whānau tūārangi, which means whānau who have come from afar to reap the rewards in Aotearoa, as Māori discovered over 1000 years ago.
"It's time we look beyond RSE workers as an economic commodity and reviewed their presence as whānau tūārangi who should be granted permanent residency in nohoanga or nu'u, or nofoaga as it's known throughout the Pacific.
"But in permanent communities, where not just pickers and packers can come here, but whole whānau, to put down roots amongst us Kahungunu, amongst us as Māori, to our whānau from Te moana nui a Kiwa."
His claims came following RSE orchard workers from Solomon Islands alleging assault and ill-treatment by their local manager and returning to their homes.
"As Ngāti Kahungunu, with our manaakitanga culture, especially shown through the Covid lockdowns, we have gathered support for all our Pacific whānau, whether RSE workers, those residents amongst us, or who are married into us," he said.
"These whānau are now vital cogs in our community."
He said people needed to reflect on the economic benefits brought to the region by RSE workers, and look at more significant contributions that can be made to them and their families back home.
"There should be life beyond picking and packing our fruit," Tomoana said.
"And just as Māori have been replaced out of this type of work, there needs to be training into other fields of endeavour, into the trades, into the small business, into the professions while still retaining cultural identities."
The future of Hawke's Bay was reliant on "benign employers not ruthless exploiters", he said.
"The future of our region depends on the supportive government agency approach rather than a vindictive judicial approach.
"The future of our peoples is to create a new realm of opportunity based on our manaakitanga, our kaitiakitanga, and our aratakitanga, which is bold leadership.
"It is incumbent on us as an iwi to lead central government, regional and local government, the private sector and others towards this goal.
"Otherwise our whānau tūārangi can just be turned off and on like a light switch which is a form of abuse that cannot be tolerated in our modern post-Covid lockdown world."