4 Feb 2022

Tonga eruption: RSE workers arrive in NZ

10:35 am on 4 February 2022

More than 30 Tongans have arrived in New Zealand to join the Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) Scheme.


.. Photo: Supplied/NZ Ethical Employers

An Air New Zealand flight left the Tongan capital Nukua'lofa on Tuesday and arrived in Auckland with passengers and cargo from the island.

Tonga went into lockdown from 6pm on Wednesday after port workers tested positive for Covid-19.

The Government confirmed that the two cases of Covid-19 were detected through routine testing at the wharf in Nuku'alofa.

RSE manager for New Zealand Apples and Pears Emma Sherwood said Tuesday's flight brought the first contingent of workers - 32 of them - from the Kingdom since the volcanic eruption and tsunami more than two weeks ago.

"They are going to a number of employers in Hawke's Bay and Nelson as we come into the pip fruit harvest," Sherwood said.

"But they will likely be given the opportunity to work in other sectors and different crops that come to harvest as well."

Sherwood said the focus was now on helping bring more Tongan labourers to work in Aotearoa's RSE Scheme.

The decision followed the devastation caused by the disaster on 15 January.

Three people died as a result and there was widespread damage to homes, resorts and infrastructure.

Sherwood said New Zealand stands ready to assist the Tongans.

"You know the first question in my first meeting post the tragic eruption with the Tongan group that we work with was what can we do? How can we still get people to New Zealand?

"They were so aware of how important the scheme would be going forward to ensure that workers are able to send money home to support their families."

There are 800 Tongans in NZ's RSE Scheme and majority of them work on average for seven months before heading back home, said Sherwood.

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