Prime Minister keen to welcome back Pasifika for seasonal work

By Marena Mane

Only two days after apologising for the 1970s Dawn Raids that ripped Pacific people from their homes and families in the early hours of the morning for overstaying their visas, the government is again calling on Pacifika to come to Aotearoa, to help support recognised seasonal employers (RSEs).

In the past, Pasifika were invited to New Zealand on temporary visas to fill a labour shortage but they were then specifically targeted for deportation once their visas expired, even though 40 percent of overstayers were from other places, including the UK and USA.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says 150 RSE workers are continuing to arrive in Aotearoa at a time but in small numbers due to quarantine requirements, and that she would be doing an injustice if she did not acknowledge that a new bubble with no quarantine is something both New Zealand and Paciic countries have requested. She says the RSE staff need to be paid a decent "living wage" due to Covid-19's devastating impact on many Pacific nations.

“We have heeded that call in New Zealand but also from those Pacific island nations.”

Currently, the government only extends skilled worker visas to current visa holders, not seasonal employees, even though there is a demand for them.

Visas can be extended

Ardern says temporary workers who are already in New Zealand can extend their work visas and that having a "critical skills list" makes no sense if the government hasn't renewed the visas of people who are already here.

“With the RSE scheme, we have a number of people who have been in New Zealand where we have continued to allow them to continue to work. They’ve stayed on longer than their season has required them. However, many of them wish to leave now. So, as they depart, we have looked at ways to continue to enable other workers to be able to access those jobs."

Ardern also emphasises that workers who are stuck in Aotearoa due to no fault of their own can extend their visas and that the government has made it simpler for companies to keep them on. “We have heard those calls and we have made those changes,” she says.