First meetings: Tongan Prime Minister meets with RSE employers in Napier

Tongan Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva is preparing to meet with Recognised Seasonal Employers this morning in Napier.

This is the first time Hon. Pohiva has visited  New Zealand’s largest viticulture and horticulture industries.

About 500 Tongan workers are employed by the Hawkes Bays’ employers.

The Prime Minister will talk to five employers as part of his attempt to strengthen their relationship with his government.

The Tongan community in Napier along with staff from the RSE employers  will host a welcoming lunch this afternoon to welcome Hon. Pohiva and his entourage.

Tevita Niulata, the government of Tonga’s liaison officer in Hawkes Bay said the Tongan community in Napier will perform some Tongan activities in this afternoon’s special function.

Last night the Prime Minister was joined by the Tongan consul in New Zealand Stafford ‘Aho and Tonga RSE Coordinator in New Zealand, Sefita Hao’uli in a dinner at the Scenic hotel.

As we reported, Tongan Prime Minister ʻAkilisi Pōhiva will hold official talks with Recognised Seasonal Employers in Kerikeri and Hawkes Bay after a Tongan employee fled at Auckland International airport.

Samuela Manuofetoa arrived in New Zealand early this month to work at Mr Apple, New Zealand’s largest apple supplier.

Manuofetoa fled from the airport without going to his employer.

Mr Apple has turned to Samoa for a replacement of Manuofetoa.

This has been a big concern for the Prime Minister, who is worried that Mr Apple might take away the employment opportunity from Tonga and gave it to the Samoans.

The company has employed hundreds of Tongans on RSE contracts over the years.

However, in the past it has also said it wants more Samoans.

Mr Apple CEO Andrew Van Workum was quoted in 2014 as saying its Samoan workers had been a boon for the business.

The company is currently advertising for seasonal workers.

According to Tongan RSE Coordinator in New Zealand,  Sefita Hao’uli, Tongans have the worst record of any group of Pacific Islands employees for absconding in New Zealand and overstaying their visas.

A total of 16 Tongan employees including Manuofetoa are still at large in New Zealand after fleeing when most of them were due to return to Tonga.

The Prime Minister will ask RSE employers for forgiveness in an attempt to strengthen their relationship with his government.

Last month eight Tongan employees who worked for Turners and Growers in Kerikeri were sent home after being accused of drinking alcohol, being violent and being unable to carry out their tasks.

Hon. Pohiva will be accompanied by his personal assistant Poʻoi Pohiva, Deputy Secretary of Ministry of Internal Affairs, CEO ʻAna Bing Fonua and Deputy CEO Fanauʻifoʻou ʻAkauʻola.

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