Pacific workers celebrate 5 years of seasonal work in NZ


This week, Vanuatu celebrated five successful years of its participation in the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. <!--more-->The Melanesian nation, which, unlike other Pacific Island nations had traditionally low volumes of remittances, has seen a marked increase in remittance inflows since it began participating in the scheme in 2007.

Vanuatu has been one of the most enthusiastic participants with over 1700 men and women currently working in New Zealand hired by more than 40 employers and some 2300 who have worked in previous years. Vanuatu Labour Commissioner Lionel Kaluat estimates the RSE scheme has yielded US$41.2 million for the country in five years.

“When the first seasonal workers from Vanuatu began arriving in the small farming towns and communities in 2007, locals thought they were newly resettled refugees from some African country,” McKenzie Kalotiti Vanuatu’s High Commissioner in New Zealand told Pacific Periscope this week. “But today they are part of the townscape adding great cultural diversity to the places where they live and work.”

This week, workers from Tonga, Samoa and Vanuatu joined Christian choirs with a wide mix of ethnic communities in an annual ‘Many People, Many Songs’ celebration in Nelson, New Zealand.

“It’s great for the community to be able to appreciate the cultures of our guest RSE workers, given that they play such an important role in the local horticulture and viticulture industries. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about each other’s cultures and, for RSE workers, to give something back to the Nelson community,” New Zealand Department of Labour’s National Manager Emily Fabling said.

In a tribute to the workers, South Island firm Provine managing director Ken Prouting said, “They are personable people, good workers who get on with the job and get on with people … Most contractors in Marlborough wouldn’t be in business today if it weren’t for these workers.”

The five-year milestone was also celebrated in Port Vila, Vanuatu earlier this week. New Zealand High Commissioner to Vanuatu, Bill Dobbie, Labour Commissioner Lionel Kaluat and RSE officials and workers as well as Vanuatu Government officials attended.