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Ministers announce cap for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in 2016/17 raised by 1,000 to 10,500; say allows horticulture and wine exporters to keep growing; Winston Peters rails against National's "immigration madness"

Ministers announce cap for Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme in 2016/17 raised by 1,000 to 10,500; say allows horticulture and wine exporters to keep growing; Winston Peters rails against National's "immigration madness"

By Bernard Hickey

The Government has increased its quota for the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme for short term migrants working on vineyards and orchards by 1,000 to 10,500 for the 2016/17 season.

The decision came a day after figures showing net migration rose to a record high 70,300 in the year to October and after New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters described the National-led Government's policies as "migration madness."

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said the horticulture and viticulture industry was the fourth largest export earner and needed the extra workers to keep growing.

“The industry has forecast an additional 2,500 workers will be needed for the upcoming season,” Woodhouse said.

“The increase of 1,000 RSE workers shows the Government is committed to enabling the industry to continue to grow and maximise export returns, while ensuring jobs aren’t being taken from New Zealanders," he said.

Tolley and Woodhouse said the increase was made on the understanding that the industry continued to maximise opportunities for New Zealanders, particularly in regions with relatively high unemployment.

Tolley said around 5,000 beneficiaries had taken part in the New Zealand Seasonal Work Scheme and a "significant number" had not gone back on the benefit.

“In 2015, MSD placed over 4,000 people in the agriculture industry across New Zealand, which includes the horticulture and viticulture industries. HortNZ figures show that this sector employs around 60,000 people annually," Tolley said, adding MSD was developing other new initiatives to increase the number of New Zealanders working in the industry.

The RSE scheme was launched in April 2007 with a cap of 5,000 workers under the then Labour Government led by Helen Clark when unemployment was under 4%, but the cap was lifted to 8,000 in October 2008 when unemployment was rising and was lifted again in 2014 from 8,000 to 9,000, and then again from 9,000 to 9,500 in December last year when unemployment was over 5%. The workers come mostly from the Pacific Islands.

Unemployment is currently 4.9%, while the under-utilisation rate is 12.2%.

The number of unemployed actually rose by 1,000 to 128,000 over the last two years and the number of 15-24 year olds who were Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) rose by 3,000 to 74,000. The NEET rate has been unchanged at 11.1% over the last two years. The under-utilisation rate, which includes those people in part time jobs who want more work, fell in the September quarter to 12.2% from 12.7% in the June quarter, but is unchanged from two years ago. There were 329,000 under-utilised people in the September quarter.

The Reserve Bank has warned that record high net migration, particularly of working age people, was moderating wage growth in an economy growing at almost 4%.

'Reckless migration policy'

Earlier, New Zealand First Leader Winston commented on yesterday's record-high migration figures, describing policy settings as reckless.

“We have tens of thousands of young New Zealanders who can’t get a job, congested roads, a housing crisis, over-burdened hospitals and schools and yet the government persists with a madcap policy that is not working in the best interests of all New Zealanders," Peters said.

“The high level of low-skilled workers coming to New Zealand, including international students, has undermined working conditions and put a lid on wages," he said.

"It is clear that the government’s only strategy for the 2017 election is bloat the economy with consumption and perpetuate the myth that consumption growth equals real GDP per person growth. It doesn’t, and as the one political party that understands that we intend to blow their political strategy clean out of the water.”

Meanwhile, Peters reacted to comments from construction firms that at least 1,000 foreign workers would be needed to rebuild the road and rail connections through Kaikoura. He said New Zealanders should be used to rebuild the roads and rail, "not cheap foreign labour."

"Recruitment and immigration companies who make big money bringing in foreign labour perpetuate the myth we don’t have the workers and labour when we do," Peters said.

“A skilled structural fabricator/welder in Christchurch recently told NZ First that foreign workers in the Christchurch Rebuild were being paid ‘very low wages’ which was driving down wage rates for Kiwis," he said.

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Couldn't agree more Winston. We have a huge problem that is being completely ignored - an army of beneficiaries completely out of touch with the working world. Filling the place up with immigrant labour is not and never will be the answer - deal with the problem!


I'm emigrating in the New Year. Taking my family to live in the Olde Country. It's bittersweet, but we know that we're the lucky ones, in that we have options. I have no doubt that even Australia will be off limits to Kiwis in a few years, as Australia elects to further secure its borders from NZ's relentlessly reckless immigration policy.

As we approach the end of our time in NZ, I often wonder now on the future of New Zealand. Will we recognise New Zealand in 20 years time? In what state will it be to recognise?


..can you imagine how quickly the public might wake up and react if NZ got a public warning via Aus (Pauline Hansen a likley candidate) stating that by having such an open door policy, NZ is risking it's preferred status? Surely Winston has her on speed dial?

Great for locals who can rent their garages out. A friend has lots of houses in Hastings and all the garages have season workers in them. Must be tough on the kids.
I see Winston say there are 40k extra cars on AKL roads every year, thats a hard trend to keep up with.

But what do primary producers do when unemployed Kiwis point blank refuse to do the work? Draconian responses such as no work no benefit are not feasible. An unknown number, probably significant, would fail drug tests anyway and couldn't use machinery.
It's a form of aid to developing pacific countries and hugely important to the welfare of many people back home.
I think a distinction needs to be made between NZs crazy permanent immigration policy and the seasonal employer scheme and have no problem with the increase.

The problem is is orchardists are notoriously poor payers, despite what they say. Apples and grapes need lots of min wage workers, like the dairy industry. If they started paying a living wage then I am sure the workers would materialise but NZ is no longer a cheap place to live. A basic house with a garage and 4 seasonal workers paying $150 a week each is often a get out of jail card for many low income families in the region.
My dad was in a dementia ward and last week the workers were complaining about being put on zero-hour contracts, some as low as 16 hrs a week, great workers with a fantastic attitude to the elderly and infirm.

You get paid piecemeal while the pickings are slim and an hourly rate when there is plenty to be picked, that started a long, long time ago.

The answers are very obvious, but no one - politicians and NZ citizens alike - want to face the truth. The truth is that our ridiculous and unsustainable social welfare system discourages work. Why would they work when you can get more on the dole/DA/DPB? We've created this idiotic system in the belief that we are furthering social justice, equality, etc, when nothing could be further from the truth. Dysfunctional families, violence, drugs, etc, are all worse than ever. Solution: slash welfare and have zero tax for those on the minimum wage. I won't hold my breath though, as there are still plenty of people that believe in socialism...even though it has never worked before.


We have created this idiotic system of importing labour which is prepared to work for below market rates and conditions to prop up unsustainable businesses, or simply increase profit for buisness owners. We are selling out the attributes which make this country great - its values and relative lack of population. If businesses cant get good staff, then they should pay more to attract them. If they go out of buisiness then they were not viable to begin with.

Its welfare dependancy alright, welfare for buisiness owners.

Agree. Whenever I hear politicians claiming that xxx business will create xxx number of jobs I roll my eyes. I don't care how many jobs, I care about quality of jobs.

And what happens if you earn slightly more than the minimum wage? You have to pay tax? Will that incentivise anyone to work harder?
The yanks don't have much welfare and they have more problems than us (and more unemployment)

I agree middleman. NZ gives Pacific nations 100's of millions of $ in aid. Its better for all involved to have a win win arrangement. We even give Indonesia 50 million $ a year. I can't work that one out. If we give them money we should at least buy and protect 50 million $ worth of rain forest. That could help our carbon credits that we signed up to in Paris. We agreed to drop carbon output to 2005 levels by 2030 (I think) or face billions in fines.
Mean while where adding 200 cars a day to gridlocked Auckland roads. Whos going to pay this carbon fine?
Belize wanted foreign aid to purchase there rainforest instead of cutting and developing and had no takers.
This carbon scheme is just another crock with somebody getting rich for doing nothing.

Good decision to keep wages under control.

Good decision to keep wages under control low.

Too bloody bad they won't apply the same science to rents and house prices, isn't it?

Lot of numbers
Lot of words
But we are never told how much per hour these fruit pickers are paid

Bleat ... Bleat ... we need more of them

they get paid after deductions, so airfares, food, accomodation and bus fare for shifting between orchards and then some pocket money while they are here. Then a lump sum when they go home. A samoan I talked to got 9k after the season which was about 4 months but he told me he struggled to get $2 an hour at home another only got 7k.

Whilst I think many fruit growing operations etc need to increase productivity by investing in greater mechanisation etc, in the short term these guest workers have a place. At least they can take their earnings home where it will go much further, rather than give them PR and create a poor underclass.

So if the average pay rate is staying stagnant and the unemployment rate is going down, and immigration is increasing and immigrants are taking all of the low paid jobs, then doesn't that imply that the average wage of non-immigrants is going up?
Surely importing people to do the mundane jobs while existing residents do the better jobs is a win/win?

No the number of unemployed is not decreasing only the percentage due to population growth

Ok the unemployment rate is staying stable then. Regardless, if immigrants are taking very low paid jobs as the theory goes, then everyone else must be getting paid more for the average wage to stay the same.