“The Government’s RSE (Recognised Seasonal Employer) scheme is wrongheaded, ineffective and in need of a major overhaul, says ACT Leader David Seymour.
“I have repeatedly raised concerns with the Government, in particular former Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway, for the past two years.
“These concerns are highlighted today in an investigative piece by Newsroom which says the scheme is being run ‘like Cuba.’
“The Government should be focused on the welfare of RSE workers rather than the number of them. It should remove the cap on the number of RSE workers.
“I first wrote to Iain Lees-Galloway about this scheme on July 27 2018 on behalf of a constituent who was having trouble with the scheme. Over the past two years I have had considerable correspondence with the Minister and MBIE, arguing that the scheme is rotten.
“The RSE scheme’s fundamental flaw is the cap on the number of workers allowed. I have advocated on behalf of my constituent who cannot get enough ‘quota’ (the right to employ a given number of RSE workers) under the scheme to employ people to make her business work. The allocation of quota is never published, we don’t know who gets it, and in the murkiness is an invitation to corruption.
“Today’s reporting shows abuse of the scheme that I believe was inevitable. A few people have too much power to allocate limited quota and, as a result, those who would abuse the power seize it in the murkiness of the scheme.
“It now appears that there has been murkiness between Immigration New Zealand staff and operators who have benefited from being given quota under the scheme. If the Government creates a limited number of licenses to do something, it is only a matter of time before those licenses become valuable and people fight over them in malicious ways.
“It is only a matter of time before bad people colonise a scheme such as the RSE scheme, with its lack of transparency and valuable Government licenses. The solution is to open it up.
“The Government should be focused on ensuring the RSE scheme is run safely without worker abuse, rather than on capping the numbers of workers for political purposes. Capping the numbers does not increase the number of jobs for New Zealanders, it actually kills Kiwi jobs, as I argued in the House in April:
'I just say to the Minister—he says he wants to cap the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) because it is going to somehow force employers to employ more Kiwis. Well, to an extent that happens, but in my understanding of the horticultural industry, actually the cap on the RSE means they just don't plant as much so they don't sell as much.'
“The new Minister must now remove the cap on RSE workers, like Australia’s scheme, and start focusing on worker welfare.”