Wednesday, 16 September 2020 08:57

Late RSE extensions welcomed

Written by  Staff Reporters
Horticulture NZ’s Mike Chapman says government delays have caused RSE workers and their employers unnecessary anxiety and cost. Horticulture NZ’s Mike Chapman says government delays have caused RSE workers and their employers unnecessary anxiety and cost.

Horticulture NZ says it welcomed increased Government support and flexibility for the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers who are still in New Zealand waiting for repatriation back to the Pacific.

However, it says these decisions which were made back in July should have come a lot earlier.

“We really needed this decision back in April. While local communities have rallied to support RSE workers, government delays have caused RSE workers and their employers unnecessary anxiety and cost,” HortNZ chief executive Mike Chapman says.

“Immigration New Zealand is now providing the RSE workers who are still in New Zealand with the flexibility to move around the country to take up other horticulture jobs – as well as jobs in other industries.”

Chapman says it means that the RSE workers who have been stranded in NZ won’t have the extra time they have spent in the country count against them, when they return to New Zealand next season.

“At the same time, RSE employers can now apply for in-kind assistance to help them provide the RSE workers still here with basic needs, such as food and accommodation, under the Government’s Assistance to Foreign Nationals Impacted by Covid-19 Programme.”

Chapman says out of the approximately 9000 RSE workers still in New Zealand, 4000 are waiting to get home.

“Summerfruit NZ, NZ Apples and Pears, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated and HortNZ have worked in partnership with the Government to find ways to get these workers home safely and as quickly as possible. More than 1000 RSE workers have made it home thanks to these efforts, which continue.”

He says that while it is good that these workers are now going home, it is important that the RSE scheme continues as it supports both New Zealand and the Pacific nations.

“Horticulture will contribute significantly to the post-Covid recovery, and the RSE scheme is a cornerstone of that recovery.

“The scheme has operated for more than 10 years. It has ensured that the New Zealand horticulture industry has been able to grow and provide permanent employment for thousands of kiwis.”

Chapman says as horticulture spearheads New Zealand post-Covid recovery, skilled RSE workers in similar numbers to this year will be needed to complement any local entering the horticulture industry for the first time.

“The RSE scheme is vital to the Pacific,” he adds. “The scheme enables these workers to earn money to support their families back home, set up businesses, and build storm proof houses, schools and community facilities.”

Another extension

In late August, the Government announced that it is extending RSE visas by six months, allowing these workers to stay and work in New Zealand.

The extension took effect from 18 August 2020 and will apply to all RSE workers whose visas expire between 18 August and 31 December 2020.  RSE workers who wish to continue to work in New Zealand for the same purpose after this additional six months will also be able to apply to stay longer. The requirement to return to their home country between seasons has been lifted in light of Covid travel restrictions.

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Lely offerings for the future

Dutch robotic specialist Lely launched a new farm management application called Horizon at its recent Future Farm Days 2020.

Designed to connect data from a range of on-farm equipment and suppliers into one management system, it creates a real-time decision-support platform, to make the farmer’s life easier, the herd healthier and the farm more profitable, says Lely.

Developed over a 24-month period, with over 100 test farmers in seven countries, working with 75 engineers, designers, farm management advisors, veterinarians and AI specialists, the new application will eventually replace the current Lely T4C management system. It uses smart algorithms and the cloud to deliver data that is processed into actionable information that is always accessible on any device in a user-friendly way.

Lely claims the Horizon application unburdens farmers from routine decision making and helps them optimise their workloads, using integrated routines based on easily scheduled cow ‘touches’, create logical and more efficient workflows. It is also possible to assign a certain task to an employee and to schedule a time slot for the cow touch, rather than analysing different reports and filtering long lists.

Horizon is also able to connect and combine data from non-Lely sources into a complete solution for the farmer removing the need to enter the same data twice, while scrutinising individual data streams in different applications will no longer be necessary. Currently, connections with farming applications such as Dairy Comp, Uniform-Agri, CRV and Herde already enable farmers to synchronise information about calving and inseminations between applications. Lely’s ambition is to connect with more partners over time, to hand the farmer more smart data.

To ensure full support in the migration to Lely Horizon, existing Lely T4C customers will be personally informed by their Lely Center before the end of 2020.

The migration is planned in a phased approach, from country to country, over the year 2021.

Also launched at the event, Lely Exos is an autonomous concept for harvesting and feeding fresh grass to the herd.

The company suggests that feeding fresh grass makes better use of available roughage, suggesting “fresh” has between 10 and 20% more nutritional value than grass silage, as there are minimal losses typically seen during mowing, tedding, raking, harvesting and feeding.

Lely suggests that feeding fresh grass over an extended season reduces the amount of silage that has to be conserved, reduces the need for concentrates and bought-in feed and increase the margin made on each litre of milk produced.

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In operation, Exos also collects field data as it goes about its job, giving framers live data on grass supply and lending itself to a further concept of delivering a targeted liquid fertiliser as it passes over a harvested area.

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