By Nanai Taofiga Laveitiga Tuiletufuga
(www.savalinews.com) – Elated is an understatement when it comes to Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi’s reaction to the announcement this week that the New Zealand Recognized Seasonal Workers Scheme is increasing its annual quota to 10,500 workers.
That’s 1,000 more jobs for Samoans RSE workers along with the eight Pacific Islands Forum countries reaping the RSE fruits.
It’s well documented that Tuilaepa has been on the frontline in urging the New Zealand Government to remove the RSE working visas cap for its Pacific Islands advocates.
That was audible when Samoa hosted 200 plus New Zealand Recognized Seasonal Workers Employees attending the 8th Annual Conference in Apia last year.
Opening the meeting, Tuilaepa called on the 200 plus Kiwi employers hiring Pacific Island workers from Samoa, Solomon Islands, Nauru, Tonga, Fiji, and Kiribati to lobby to the New Zealand authorities to “remove the cap” which is restricting Pacific Island RSE workers to quota of 9,500 a year.
“New Zealand should increase working visas for RSE workers,” urged the Samoa Government leader.
“The RSE is rated as one of the most significant success stories of our region.
It’s a win-win for all those involved from the NZ farmers, to the participating Pacific Island government and most importantly to RSE employees.
“The program has also alleviated labor shortage problems faced by the New Zealand farmers,” continued Tuilaepa.
“However, as long as New Zealand is paying the unemployed to stay unemployed the need for RSE will intensify.”
Today, Tuilaepa is applauding the increase. But maintain his resolve that the RSE cap needs to be removed.
“Its common sense,” says the Prime Minister.
“Removing the cap of 9,500 RSE visas every year is a win-win for all those involved from the NZ farmers, to the participating Pacific Island government and most importantly to RSE employees.
“The program has also alleviated labor shortage problems faced by the New Zealand farmers,” concluded Tuilaepa.
Samoan RSE workers return between $10-15m (US$7 – US$10 million) to the Samoan economy, or up to 8 per cent of the country’s GDP.
And from the Beehive in Wellington, New Zealand and Samoan High Chief in his capacity as Labour Party’s Pacific Affairs spokesman MP Su’a Williams Sio said the call to remove the RSE quota is worth exploring.
“It’s an issue worth looking into,” said Sua.
“We need to look at the sustainability as well as the impact on New Zealand in terms of employment.
“If you recall, the RSE scheme was introduced by the last Labour government despite opposition from the National Party.
“So any initiative to improve the RSE and its benefits to the horticulture and viticulture industries is always worth a good thorough look.”