The Government is putting in place a range of immigration policy changes to help fill labour shortages in key industries while ensuring New Zealanders, who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, have the chance to find new employment.
“Two key sectors we are moving to help are horticulture and wine growing. These sectors are among a range of industries performing critical roles in supporting New Zealand’s COVID economic recovery and generating vital export earnings. So, it’s important we support them to keep going, while ensuring that, where there are job opportunities, New Zealanders are given a fair chance at filling them,” Minister of Immigration Kris Faafoi said.
“This season we expect more Kiwis, who have lost jobs due to COVID-19, will be available to work in these sectors, but it is likely there will be a shortfall of workers as these industries have often relied on migrants for their seasonal peaks,” Kris Faafoi said.
“Therefore, people in New Zealand with expiring working holiday visas will be able to stay here to fill short-term horticulture and viticulture roles,” Kris Faafoi said.
The Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visa will be automatically given to around 11,000 working holiday visa holders in New Zealand with visas expiring between 1 October 2020 and 31 March 2021. These visas will allow them to work in horticulture and viticulture roles, where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do this work.
Employers can take on these workers when there are unfilled Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme spaces with an RSE employer, or there are unfilled roles available with an accredited SSE employer
Employers will also be able to take on SSE workers for roles in regions specified on a list which the Ministry of Social Development is currently compiling.
Government changes will also enable other work visa holders to apply for an SSE visa if they have a job offer from one of these employers or if the job is on the Ministry of Social Development list.
In addition, all RSE scheme workers stranded in New Zealand who have been granted a more flexible limited visa to be able to work part-time and do non-RSE work will be able to ‘re-enter’ the RSE scheme and work for an RSE employer with 30 hours per week average pay guaranteed.
Kris Faafoi said the changes would help fill roles that cannot be filled by New Zealanders in the short term, while the industry works on other solutions.
These policy changes are a good balance between meeting the labour needs of these industries and ensuring good jobs for Kiwis who are looking for work as a result of COVID-19, he said.
“While unemployment is increasing due to the pandemic’s disruption, a lot of this is occurring in urban centres away from seasonal work. Without these visa changes, there will not be enough people in the right locations to ensure fruit and produce is picked in time to ensure that flow-on economic recovery benefits protect other New Zealand jobs.”
The changes are for the 2020/21 season only.
Kris Faafoi said the Government remained committed to the RSE scheme.
“We know many RSE workers are stranded in New Zealand because of COVID-19. These changes will provide certainty and options for these people, and we expect RSE workers will have priority for any seasonal work that cannot be filled by New Zealanders.
“Our borders are closely controlled in order to keep COVID-19 out. While only a small number of migrants can arrive in New Zealand, the Government is enabling the remaining migrant workforce to stay on. This will go a long way to support the labour needs of the horticulture and viticulture industries.
“RSE workers offshore will be able to return and work in New Zealand when it is safe to do so.
“The RSE scheme is part of our special relationship with the Pacific and is a win-win for us and our Pacific neighbours. It helps ensure our horticulture and viticulture industries are productive, and the scheme supports Pacific Island economies through remittances,” Kris Faafoi said.