Up to 2000 workers from the Pacific allowed into NZ to fill horticulture, wine industry jobs

Up to 2000 Pacific workers will be allowed into New Zealand to address labour shortages in the horticulture and wine industries.

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The workers will come from the Pacific, and their employers will have to pay them at least $22.10 an hour. Source: Breakfast

This border exemption will see experienced workers arrive between January and March next year, the Government announced this morning.

Additional financial incentive is also being offered to unemployed Kiwis who take on seasonal work.

Under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) exception, employers will pay the workers at least $22.10 an hour and cover the cost of managed isolation.

Workers will be paid the equivalent of a 30-hour work a week while they complete managed isolation.

Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor said the Government had listened to the concerns of the sectors.

“We accept they need help to meet labour shortages that threaten harvests this coming season, so we are acting to allow up to 2,000 experienced Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme workers to come to New Zealand from certain Pacific Island countries.”

“Horticulture and wine are among our largest export industries, with total exports valued at $6.5 billion in the last financial year. They also employ around 38, 300 New Zealanders, many in regional New Zealand. These seasonal workers will enable the work of these New Zealanders to continue,” O’Connor said.

The exemption would also benefit New Zealand's Pacific neighbours, whose economies had been hit hard by the pandemic, Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi said

“We have also made changes to allow visitor, student and work visa holders currently in New Zealand to apply for Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas if they have a job offer from an eligible employer or if the job is on the Ministry of Social Development list.”

“To streamline the application process, the Government is removing requirements for police and medical checks for these visa applications,” Faafoi said.

The announcement of the RSE exemption comes as the Government also offered additional financial support to entice unemployed Kiwis into seasonal work.

The Government will contribute $200 a week for up to 13 weeks for unemployed New Zealanders who move for seasonal jobs.

“We’ve also introduced an incentive payment of $500 to be paid to the employee halfway through the contract and another $500 to be paid at the end for jobs that last six weeks or more,” Minister for Social Development and Employment Carmel Sepuloni said.

Payments can also help with transport costs, clothing requirements, training for the job, and pastoral care.

“Getting New Zealanders into jobs is our top priority and our changes will help address the barriers unemployed New Zealanders face when considering seasonal jobs, particularly relocation costs and unstable income,” Sepuloni said.

Sepuloni said changes have also been made to the Seasonal Work Assistance Programme to provide more support to people who have moved off a benefit to take up a seasonal job, but haven’t been able to work due to bad weather and as a result have lost income.

Workers will now be able to receive the equivalent of minimum wage up to 40 hours a week, depending on the number of hours lost.

The maximum amount payable through Seasonal Work Assistance Programme over 26 weeks has also been increased from $940 to $2,149, to allow more financial security over the length of the season.