the extension of Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme visas for workers already in New Zealand has been welcomed in Central Otago.
The Government has extended RSE visas by six months to allow visa holders to stay and work in New Zealand if they are unable to return home. An Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the change would apply to all RSE workers whose visas would expire between August 18 and December 31.
Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group chairman Stephen Jeffery said it was good news for some seasonal workers and orchard owners and would ‘‘help fill a hole’’.
‘‘It is good because obviously at the moment there is no-one coming back into the country and we know there is a shortage coming,’’ Mr Jeffery said.
However, some of the orchard workers were hoping to be able to leave the country, in particular workers from Vanuatu who were concerned about the aftermath of Cyclone Harold that in April caused devastation across large parts of the country, he said.
‘‘In Vanuatu they have had a lot of damage to their infrastructure, and in particular some of the workers have lost their dwellings while they have been away and they need to get home.’’
Although the visa extension was a good outcome and some workers would be happy to find further work in Central Otago in the coming season, Mr Jeffery was concerned for workers who wanted to return to their home countries.
‘‘If they are happy to come back and work in Central Otago that will be a positive outcome, as long as they are content.’’
Last week Mr Jeffery warned that labour shortages could cripple Central Otago’s horticulture and viticulture industry.
The district could face a shortfall of 4000 to 5000 workers at the height of the season.
In previous seasons the RSE scheme had filled about 13% of horticultural roles.
The Immigration New Zealand spokeswoman said the visa extension would help give some certainty to horticulture and viticulture sectors about labour availability for the coming season.
About 8000 RSE workers were still in New Zealand, many with visas due to expire by the end of October.