Horticulture New Zealand says the Government is moving in the right direction with its 1550 increase in Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) workers, but more RSE workers are still needed to support the horticulture's industry's growth.

RSE is the name for the Pacific Island seasonal labour scheme where workers from the Pacific come to New Zealand for six to seven months for harvest and pruning. Once that work is done, they return home to their families in the Pacific.

The industry says the RSE scheme has enabled the continued expansion of fruit, vegetable and wine grape growing in New Zealand.

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It has also enabled people in the Pacific to earn money that they would otherwise not have earned.

"RSE workers are playing a key role in the horticulture industry's continued growth in response to rising export and domestic demand" said HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman.

HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. Photo / John Borren
HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. Photo / John Borren

New Zealand's horticulture export revenue jumped 13.7 per cent to $6.1 billion in the year to 30 June 2019 and it is expected to grow by another 3.8 per cent to $6.3 billion in the current financial year said Chapman.

"This growth is why we asked the Government for an even greater increase in RSE worker numbers, to support our growth and make up for the shortage of available New Zealanders workers, particularly during peak times like harvesting and pruning".

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However, it was good to have certainty for the current and next season said Chapman, with the Government provisionally announcing that another 1600 RSE workers will be added, pushing the total from 14,400 to 16,000 this season.

The availability of RSE workers also gave certainty to New Zealand businesses so they could continue to grow and employ additional permanent New Zealand workers.

HortNZ said the New Zealand RSE scheme has been acknowledged by the World Bank as one of the best labour mobility schemes in the world because of its positive impact in the Pacific.

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In the previous season, Pacific RSE workers earned more than $NZ 50 million.

The money earned and skills learned in New Zealand enabled the workers to support the education of their families, build sustainable houses and village facilities, and to set up businesses back in the Pacific.