Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) contractors say the scheme has helped to place more Kiwis into permanent work in the New Zealand wine industry.
When first instigated back in 2007, there were concerns that the workers coming in from Pacific Islands would be taking jobs from locals who needed them.
Nothing could be further from the truth according to individuals who have seen their businesses grow as a result of the scheme.
Aaron Jay from Hortus in Marlborough says in the past five years his contracting business has grown 410 percent.
While Aaron started out with just one van and seven part time staff, he had little inkling that he would grow to employ 42 permanent staff, complemented by 400 RSE workers throughout the year and another 400 causal or transient workers.
“Quite simply, the more RSE workers we have, the more Kiwis we can employ,” Jay says. “People think that because we recruit from the RSE, that we have very few Kiwis. The reality is we started out with me as the sole permanent. Now we have 42 permanent workers, all of them Kiwis.”
That is reiterated by Jono Bushell of Vinepower. The very first vineyard contractor to become RSE accredited back in 2007, Bushell says there was an urgent need for a reliable workforce to enable the wine industry in Marlborough to grow.
“We had had backpackers and Kiwi workers, but back then we just didn’t have the volume to turn the gas up. I was running 200 backpackers to try and get 100 people to work each day.”
Now with close to 600 RSE workers across the year, Vinepower’s permanent staff numbers have grown from 10 to close to 40.”
“That is what RSE has done,” Bushell says, “increased the number of Kiwis in full time employment.”
James Dicey, viticulturist and owner of Grape Vision in Central Otago says the RSE workers he employs ensures he now has a stable, consistent, highly trained and reliable workforce.
“These guys support my ability to employ Kiwis, invest in them, pay them higher rates, give them better skilled jobs and allow them advancement. I have been able to employ a lot more Kiwis over the years because I don’t have to worry about my seasonal workers.”
Add that fact to the growth of the wine industry during the 10-year tenure of RSE and it is easy to see why the industry is so supportive.
Back in 2006 New Zealand had 23,355 hectares of productive vineyard. Exports were valued at $698,303.
In 2017 there are now close to 37,000 hectares of producing vines and total exports have reached $1.6 billon.