23 Jul 2014

Seasonal worker scheme expanded

3:58 pm on 23 July 2014

The Government has raised the limit on the number of overseas workers allowed into New Zealand for seasonal employment on orchards and vineyards.

It's also looking at a seasonal employment scheme for New Zealand workers.

The cap on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers, who come mostly from Pacific countries, has been raised from 8000 to 9000.

Horticulture New Zealandchief executive Peter Silcock said on Wednesday while the priority is to employ New Zealanders, more overseas workers will be needed as well.

"We've had a cap of 8000. It's only really this year that we've got close to that cap. With the growth that's occurring in the horticulture industry and the viticulture industry, we have an opportunity now to bring some more people in from offshore but the bulk of the workers will continue to come from New Zealand."

The kiwifruit growers' president, Neil Trebilco, said the demand for seasonal workers in the industry would grow rapidly as it recovers from the devastation of Psa vine-killing disease.

"We've been through three years when the industry has been in crisis because of Psa disease and our volumes dropped significantly. A number of people left the indsutry at that time, so we lost some skilled workers and workers we needed to work particularly seasonally.

"But now, the industry is going through a very rapid recovery and next year we're expecting to see a very large leap in our volumes, so we're going to need quite a lot more seasonal labour just to harvest the crop next year."

Mr Silcock said moves to set up a seasonal employment scheme for New Zealand workers are also positive.

"What we're talking to the Government about now is establishing a scheme which may have some similar aspects to RSE, where people move from other regions of New Zealand into our production regions to participate in seasonal work.

"The Government, of course, is very interested in how that can be a stepping stone to fulltime employment. So we're working with Government about how we might improve some processes around that and esablish some programmes that increase that connection and create opportunities for New Zealanders."