Call for NZ to turn to Pacific for more seasonal workers

The Pacific Co-operation Foundation says it'd be a win - win situation if New Zealand brought in thousands more seasonal workers from the Pacific.

The chair of the PCF, John Fiso, said New Zealand could provide financial support for Pacific people who were suffering because their economies were tanking, while also ensuring the valuable fruit crop was harvested.

One estimate is that New Zealand is 60,000 workers short this season.

Fiso said he could understand the government's wish that unemployed New Zealanders step in, but he said there were also other issues to consider.

He said while the borders were closed, New Zealand had to consider its role in the Pacific and its commitment to the so-called 'Pacific Reset' policy which brought a focus on the region.

"We are not talking about opening the borders for trade. We are more or less talking about opening the borders for humanitarian reasons. You have also got to remember that the realm countries - like Niue, Tokelau and the Cook Islands, are actually New Zealanders," Fiso said.

"So we seem to have started a discussion about opening up the border with Australia but we have realm countries that are basically New Zealanders. We also have a special relationship with Samoa and Tonga."

Currently the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme allowed 14,400 Pacific Islanders into New Zealand, and this had been extended into the coming season, but an Immigration New Zealand spokesperson said they would not be able to travel to the country until border restrictions were lifted.

Approximately 7,000 RSE workers were unable to return home after the Covid-19 clampdown. Immigration NZ extended their visas - and their numbers would be included in 14,400 quota for 2020/2021.