The RSE scheme was established in 2007 and allows the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.
Over the last ten years, the scheme has grown not only in the number of participant employers and workers, but in economic benefits that have gone beyond New Zealand to the wider Pacific.
The scheme delivers a triple win: it benefits New Zealand's economy by providing much-needed workers when there are no New Zealanders available; it benefits Pacific Island nation's economies by providing employment and funds for development; and it benefits the individual workers and their families through work training and funds for their prosperity and growth. In addition, it has seen jobs available for New Zealanders grow significantly over the ten years, with industry having certainty of labour supply through the Scheme.
General Manager Settlement, Protection and Attraction, Steve McGill, says “The RSE scheme is so much bigger than just bringing workers to New Zealand. It has provided mainly Pacific workers with invaluable experience and the chance of being able to send money back to their communities at home.
“RSE workers are typically sending home more than 40 per cent of their take-home income during their seven months’ stay here - currently more than $40 million per annum is been remitted back to the Pacific. Remitted earnings are mainly being used on housing and education and any visit to some of the more remote parts of sending countries shows just what a huge impact the RSE scheme has made on the ground.”
Through the Strengthening Pacific Partnerships (SPP) programme, INZ, in conjunction with MFAT, now provides tailored assistance to each country to support them to participate in the scheme. This includes training Pacific governments, developing websites and databases, and providing information to market Pacific workers to employers here in New Zealand.
The viticulture and horticulture industry here in New Zealand have got involved in some of the developments created in the islands through these remittances, and have also reported a marked increase in the number of New Zealanders they have employed due to their growing businesses.
Most RSEs also envisaged further improvements in their business operations in future, as a result of participation in the programme - particularly having a more stable and productive workforce, being able to employ more New Zealand workers, and being able to expand the area under cultivation and grow the business.