Cap on seasonal workers out of Samoa challenging for RSE employers

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Yummit Fruit General Manager Paul Paynter one of the seasonal worker employers out of New Zealand says the limited of seasonal workers from Samoa presents the “biggest uncertainty at present”. 

He said there is a housing crisis in New Zealand at the moment, particularly in Hawkes Bay and uncertainty about the number of workers heading to New Zealand is a challenge. 

Mr Paynter made the comments in response to Radio Polynesia questions. He said they had 131 workers from Samoa last year and since covid many of the motels are providing emergency housing or transitional housing.  

“Ten years ago it was easy to go out and rent a house but not these days.”

He said the building of projects is slow and with expensive materials, the builders sometimes commit for up to 12 months. 

“It is much too late to build new accommodation now anyway, so it will be impossible to take advantage of the 19,000 RSE cap. 

“RSE worker numbers are confirmed by the New Zealand Government each year. “For us, that is in early January about 3 weeks before the last of them arrive.  

“This makes it difficult to fund the building of accommodation.  “Some have built and then not been granted RSE’s, so the accommodation sits empty.  “This makes building high risk. 

“For years we have asked if good quality employers with a track record could have approvals for 5 years to allow us to plan with certainty and invest in accommodation.”

Adding, they are a family business and medium-sized so a nice environment to work. “In the RSE scheme accommodation is well audited, and medical insurance is required, as is access to transport.  I think it works well. 

“The challenges have been in getting the New Zealand government to agree and to give us confirmation on numbers, securing good accommodation (we left a poor accommodation block mid-season as we weren’t happy with the quality), looking after the boys during covid lockdowns when it wasn’t clear when they would be able to go home – some were very homesick and felt trapped here.” 

He said it’s been a privilege to be an RSE employer over the years. “They are fine young men and very good workers.  They are more productive than backpackers or kiwi workers and earn more as a result.”