28 Nov 2023

Scrutiny on seasonal worker scheme as government promises RSE expansion

From Nine To Noon, 9:15 am on 28 November 2023
An i-Kiribati RSE worker at Matakana.

An i-Kiribati RSE worker at Matakana. Photo: Supplied/Charlotte Bedford

New Zealand needs more seasonal workers from the Pacific, but regional leaders are sounding the alarm about the impact on their economies.

The number of Pacific Island seasonal workers coming to Aotearoa has doubled in the last decade and has jumped by almost a third in the last three years.

National pledged during the election campaign to double the cap on seasonal workers from 19,000 to 38,000 under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme.

In the year to June 2023, 48,000 people left the Pacific to participate in New Zealand's RSE scheme and the Australian equivalent - but Pacific leaders in Samoa, Vanuatu, and Fiji have expressed concern, saying their own economies are being impacted.

Samoa's Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata'afa said countries like hers should not be seen merely as `outposts' which `grow' labourers for developed nations, and has since brought in legislation to try and exert some control over labour movements.

Meanwhile, New Zealand's National and Act parties have signed a coalition agreement to increase the cap but did not specify by how much. Kathryn speaks to Massey University's Dr. Apisalome Movono and Professor Regina Scheyvens about the implications.