Tuesday, 21 September 2021 16:30

On your behalf: RSE scheme is here to stay

Written by  Nicola Crennan
Nicola Crennan Nicola Crennan

At the recent RSE Conference in Nelson, the Minister of Immigration, Kris Faafoi, repeated the Government’s commitment to the scheme, and recognised the important role thousands of Pacific Island workers play across the vital seasonal tasks for the horticulture and wine industries.

He also confirmed that the current cap of 14,400 Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme workers would remain in place for the next year.

This is positive news, and adds to the additional movement of a plane-load every fortnight under the Border Exception 2.0. However, there is rising industry concern at the likely shortage of RSE workers for the next peak tasks leading into spring and summer.

A recent study of New Zealand-based RSE workers’ interest in receiving Covid-19 vaccinations revealed that of the 6,500 RSE worker respondents, over 50 percent were interested in repatriating, thus requiring a vaccine to meet their home country requirements. If this repatriation rate is achieved, industry estimates there would be under 7,000 RSE workers in New Zealand in March 2022, approximately half the current cap.

Taking this into account, industry’s request for Government to consider quarantine-free travel to New Zealand from Covid— free RSE sending countries becomes even more important. New Zealand Winegrowers continues to work alongside Horticulture New Zealand and the other industry groups to make progress in these areas, and have developed an industry ‘blueprint’ for Government to consider.

NZW have also raised the issue of the flow of skilled RSE workers to Australian schemes, where they have longer visas, no cap and no quarantine, combining to make Australia a favoured destination ahead of New Zealand.

The Minister updated conference attendees, saying the review of RSE policy has been postponed until 2022. The key areas under discussion were the cap, the allocation method and considering the scope of RSE activities, including whether wineries could be added. NZW will be ready to engage on these issues when the review restarts.

Long-stay RSE workers have been away from family and communities for much longer periods than normal, and have worked tirelessly to help make sure our industry continues to produce quality grapes to make New Zealand’s world-class premium wine. The RSE employers are doing their utmost to support these workers, and are taking extra steps to look after their workers’ wellbeing until there is more certainty on when they can return home and have a clearer pathway to return.

NZW wishes to offer our sympathies for the recent deaths in the RSE community and express our condolences to the RSE family and community both here and in the Pacific.

More like this

RSE flights ramp up

Quarantine free flights, bringing much-needed Pacific Island workers to New Zealand, are being ramped up.

Risks to RSE

The Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme faces three strategic risk areas, according to a two year study assessing the impacts of the migration programme.

On Your Behalf: Health and safety refresher

Health and safety is an important part of any business – it’s the right thing to do by your workers, and you also have obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (HSWA).

RSE Relief

News that Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme workers from the Pacific Islands will be able to travel to New Zealand has been welcomed by the industry.

» Latest Print Issues Online

Editorial

Perfect pivots — Editorial

Perfect pivots — Editorial

Misha Wilkinson’s description of “pirouetting” through Covid-19 seems apt, given the industry’s need to stay on its toes throughout this…

Save our soils — Editorial

Save our soils — Editorial

There’s been something of a makeover in New Zealand vineyards in recent years, as the clean-cut look of sprayed rows…

Popular Reads