Some Recognised Seasonal Employer contractors are of the opinion that there is a bit of a 'Hawke's Bay mafia' in regard to the RSE scheme.

National Party immigration spokesman Stuart Smith said the sentiment had to do with the number of RSE workers allocated to the Hawke's Bay area.

RNZ understood an Immigration New Zealand investigation into a corruption complaint, related to the RSE scheme which brought thousands of Pacific Island workers to work on farms and orchards every year.

Smith said a staff member was being investigated and other people had been stood down.

Advertisement

The investigation grounds were unclear, but RSE contractors had their suspicions, he said.

"There's a thought amongst the RSE contractors that there is a bit of a 'Hawke's Bay mafia' in regard to the RSE scheme - that's their term, not mine," he said.

"And that is around the numbers of RSE workers allocated to the Hawke's Bay area.

"It seems to be that more go there than anywhere and yet with the 'Kiwis first' policy that seems to be counter to that, because Hawke's Bay has a high proportion of [New Zealanders] that would be available to work, than say somewhere like Central Otago or Canterbury or Marlborough.

"And yet, the bigger proportion go to Hawke's Bay. It seems to have been baked in from the beginning."

Some people thought that was because there were more people advising on RSE allocations from Hawke's Bay, he added.

Immigration New Zealand, which is part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, said in a statement it did not comment on ongoing investigations.

The Government recently announced an increase in RSE numbers to meet rising demand.

Advertisement

"The cap on the number of temporary visas that can be granted to employ foreign seasonal workers is set to rise by 3150 over two years to 16,000," Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway said.

Restrictions would be placed on the further use of residential housing by seasonal workers to prevent New Zealanders being squeezed out of local housing by the increased cap, he said.