Give a man a fish and you will feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime. Never has that quote been more relevant than when it is applied to Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) workers working in New Zealand.
The scheme which began 10 years ago, has seen thousands of workers come to our shores to work in the horticulture and viticulture industries. In the first year 5000 workers were part of the scheme. In 2017 there are 10,500 workers.
While no one can deny the importance of these workers in the growth of the New Zealand wine industry, one RSE contractor says we can also not underestimate what the scheme has done for the Pacific Islands involved.
Jono Bushell of Vinepower in Marlborough says early on they could see a need to encourage workers to take the new skills they learned out here, back home to their communities. To help facilitate that, Bushell and co-owner Jason Kennard helped a group of RSE workers and their families from Vanuatu’s Tanna Island establish coffee plantations.
“We wanted them to be able to generate income with the skills they were learning in New Zealand. That is why we went straight into coffee.”
Coffee is not new to Tanna, but the old plantations had grown out of control. So Bushell used the resources of the RSE workers to clear land and replant, while securing contracts for the beans. With coconuts literally falling to the ground and rotting, he has helped establish a coconut oil factory, with locals paid to collect the coconuts.
A large vegetable garden has also been established to provide for the community and generate income from selling to hotels and markets.
And adding to the development of the island, Bushell and his RSE workers are developing a peanut farm. All this is done under the auspices of Tanna farms, whose goal is to employ and empower the people of Vanuatu to build a sustainable business they can benefit from for years to come.
None of this would have come to fruition, without the RSE programme Bushell admits. He wouldn’t have known about the pristine conditions of Tanna, without having visited to meet potential employees, and those workers would never have gained the horticultural skills to develop the land without learning them first in New Zealand under RSE.
Seasonal Solutions in Central Otago has also run courses in building for RSE workers, which paid off majorly during Cyclone Pam in 2015. James Dicey says 75 percent of the houses built by the RSE workers remained standing after the devastating cyclone. While part of that was due to having money to purchase better quality nails, reinforcement and concrete blocks, he also sees the courses as having supplied valuable information.
“We ran the building courses for them so that they would be more competent and capable when they got home, to build their houses against cyclones.”
A 75 percent standing rate after Pam is a clear indication it paid off.