Recognised Seasonal Employer policy review

Since it began in 2007, the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme has enabled employers in the horticulture and viticulture sector to recruit an annually capped number of seasonal workers from eligible Pacific Island countries to plant, maintain, harvest, or pack crops.

The RSE policy supports New Zealand employers to fill labour shortages in seasonal roles where New Zealanders are not available, while maximising benefits for Pacific workers and countries through the ability to earn money here, learn new skills and increase remittances.

Under the Scheme, RSE workers come to New Zealand for either 7 or 9 months in any 11-month period, and return home between seasons. The Scheme is an important part of New Zealand’s relations with the Pacific.

The annual cap of workers is currently 19,500 for the 2023/24 season.

Background to the RSE Review

MBIE commenced the review of the RSE policy in late 2022. 

The policy review has a twofold objective: Sustainable long-term administrative settings that work effectively for the government and employers; and a scheme that respects RSE workers, and upholds their rights and dignity through an improved set of policies and guidelines, backed by consistent and ethical employment practices.

The guiding principles for the review are that the RSE Scheme should:

  • Enable equitable sharing of benefits across employers, workers and communities
  • Incorporate the views of Pacific Island countries and workers, and the impacts on Pacific labour markets
  • Contribute to our short, medium and long-term development outcomes we seek in the Pacific region
  • Be accessible to prospective workers and employers
  • Have settings that are flexible, enabling the system to respond to labour market changes over time
  • Ensure compliance frameworks are robust, fit-for-purpose and adequately resourced.

The scope of the RSE policy review includes the following:

  • System-focussed: cap-setting process, allocation methodology, labour market test, compliance, and flexibility
  • Worker-focussed: accommodation, health, pastoral care, benefits and deductions, and worker rights and addressing exploitation risks
  • Pacific-focussed: a strategic view across all workstreams to ensure policy proposals will meet the development goals we seek in the Pacific, with a particular focus on the impacts of the scheme on Pacific labour markets

Next steps for the RSE Review

The review of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme identified a set of proposals aimed at streamlining processes, prioritising workers’ wellbeing, driving positive employment practices, ensuring more effective planning, and securing the scheme’s long-term sustainability. 

Cabinet noted the proposals, but no decisions have been made.

Further work is needed to fully develop these proposals and it is expected that further advice on the review proposals will be provided to the new Minister of Immigration in the first half of next year.

The documents taken to Cabinet along with the Cabinet minute can be found below:

Consultation and summary of submissions

MBIE carried out a targeted consultation with stakeholders over mid-March to mid-April 2023.

Written submissions closed at 12pm 24 April 2023.

This page provides a summary of the submissions MBIE received on the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) policy review options through the consultation process.

This page provides an overview of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) policy review options that MBIE sought your views on through the consultation process. More detail on the relevant policy considerations is contained in the full options document.

Recognised Seasonal Employer policy review – options for consultation: Summary

Further information on the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme

For more information about the RSE scheme, please see the following links:

Last updated: 24 October 2023