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 seven or nine 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 19,000.

In 2018, Cabinet agreed to review Pacific migration policies, beginning with the RSE scheme. The RSE policy review started in 2019 but was delayed due to COVID-19. In late 2022, the Minister of Immigration agreed to the objectives, scope, and timeframes for a full review of the RSE scheme.

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


MBIE carried out a targeted consultation with stakeholders over mid-March to mid-April 2023. Feedback was sought through:

Written submissions closed at 12pm 24 April 2023.

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

Next steps

Following the targeted consultation process, officials have been analysing submissions and are developing high-level policy recommendations for Ministerial consideration. Cabinet will likely consider initial high-level policy decisions in due course.

Following Cabinet decisions, it is likely that further policy work will be needed to determine the pathway for implementation, including appropriate timeframes.

Further information on the Recognised Seasonal Employer Scheme

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