Recognised Seasonal Employer cap increase

  • Hon Carmel Sepuloni
  • Hon Iain Lees-Galloway
Immigration Social Development

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme cap will increase by 1,750 to 12,850, providing much-needed labour for the horticulture and viticulture industries in New Zealand, say Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

“New Zealand’s RSE scheme is a ground-breaking initiative introduced by the previous Labour Government in 2007, helping meet labour shortages in some of New Zealand’s most important industries while providing economic support to our Pacific neighbours,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

“The horticulture and viticulture industries have experienced significant growth in recent years. Industry reports say that since 2015, apple and kiwifruit orchards have increased in value by around 70 per cent each, and the 2018 wine vintage was 2.6 percent larger than the previous year.

“However this growth has been accompanied by prominent labour shortages across industries and regions, notably in the past year. This is expected to continue, with growers forecasting 2600 more workers are needed to help support the industry.”

Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni says that while it’s important the industry is able to access RSE workers in peak season it’s equally important they keep their commitment to employing New Zealanders.

“There are some horticulture employers like Turners & Growers (T&G) in Hawkes Bay that’ve hired thousands of New Zealanders and MSD clients over the years. Through its industry partnership with MSD, T&G is able to offer flexible work hours and pastoral care for clients. The model is a hit with workers and business is booming for the Hawkes Bay grower.

“The Ministry will continue to grow industry partnerships with Horticulture businesses that’re committed to providing training and jobs for New Zealanders and grow a more skilled domestic workforce,” Carmel Sepuloni said.

Iain Lees-Galloway recently issued four challenges to RSE Employers at their annual conference:

  • “One: Make the industry more attractive to New Zealand workers, by providing better wages and conditions;
  • “Two: Build more accommodation for workers to alleviate local accommodation pressures;
  • “Three: Take greater responsibility for supply chains and labour contractors to help stamp out migrant exploitation; and
  • “Four: transform the horticulture and viticulture industries from low cost industries to industries based on quality, productivity, and high value products.

“The commitments from employers and industry will be supported by ongoing monitoring and compliance activity undertaken by Immigration New Zealand and the Labour Inspectorate.

“The Government will be conducting a comprehensive review of the RSE scheme in 2019 to ensure it delivers improvements while remaining consistent with the original intent of the scheme,” says Iain Lees-Galloway.

Notes to Editors

  • The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme was announced in October 2006 and came into effect in April 2007.
  • The policy allows the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.
  • RSE workers are mostly from Pacific nations, benefitting from income and training opportunities offered by the scheme. It is expected that the participating Pacific Island countries will welcome the increased cap.
  • There is an administrative limit or cap on the number of RSE places that can be taken up in any one year. 
  • The number of available places varies each year depending on the forecast of New Zealanders available and industry demand. 
  • The 2018 RSE Monitoring Survey shows that since 2007, 95 per cent of RSE employers surveyed have expanded their area under cultivation
  • According to the Ministry for Primary Industries, the industry generated $5.15bn in export revenue in 2017, with exports forecast to reach $5.5bn in 2018.

More information on the RSE scheme can be found here.