RSE workers

Tonga passes on latest Recognised Seasonal Employer intake in NZ

In November, Business Central welcomed the government's decision to allow an extra 2,000 experienced seasonal workers into New Zealand in from January to mid-March this year.

Samoa, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and Fiji have confirmed their participation in the horticulture and viticulture seasonal work.

However, Tonga has had to pass on the opportunity because they are unable to meet certain criteria of the new programme, which includes a guaranteed return flight home at the end of the season.

Tongans trapped in New Zealand since the start of lockdown are finally going home

It is the first Air NZ repatriation flight of Tongans since border restrictions were introduced.

Air New Zealand Senior Manager of Pacific Islands Brent Roxburgh said many Tongans have been stuck in NZ since the beginning of the pandemic earlier this year.

“Air New Zealand is pleased to be working closely with the Tongan government to help facilitate those wanting to return home,” said Roxburgh.

Kiwifruit body wants more RSE workers

The body's chief executive, Nikki Johnson, said this reflected the current labour shortage facing the industry in the Bay of Plenty region.

The cap was increased from 10,500 to 11,100 for this year's season and around 2000 RSE workers would operate in the Bay of Plenty at some point, Ms Johnson said.

An extra 1200 workers were needed over the next month, however, to pick and pack the kiwifruit crop, she said.

What next for senior RSE workers?

The temporary migrant labour scheme celebrated its tenth anniversary in Blenheim in July 2017 after initially being introduced in 2007 to assist the New Zealand horticultural industry find a stable workforce whilst improving the economies of the Pacific Islands.

However, RSE Liaison Officer for the Tongan Government Sefita Hao’uli believes the time has come to train workers to transition back to living permanently at home after finishing their time on the scheme.

Booze woes hurt Tonga's RSE standing

Radio Tonga reported that Sitiveni Uasi and Atonio Kulitapa were sent home for disappearing with a company vehicle.

The men disappeared from the Hastings farm where they were working last Monday and were found hundreds of kilometres away in Auckland a few days later.

Mr Kulitapa told the Kaniva website they regretted their actions, saying there was no reason for leaving but they were drunk at the time.

In February eight workers were ordered home after they broke their contracts by consuming alcohol and misbehaving.

New Zealand Government Responds to FIC Demands in the PACER Plus Negotiations

This responds positively to the demands of the Pacific Island Countries in the PACER Plus negotiations, which seek to enhance their participation in international trade. 

In June 2015, Australia took the unprecedented step in lifting the cap under the Seasonal Workers Program and extended it to the entire agriculture sector and to the accommodation sector in selected locations in the country.