The Tongan fruit pickers in Hastings happily told Prime Minister ‘Akilisi Pohiva they were lucky to get free educational courses while working at the Hawkes Bay’s orchards.

Group leader Sepuloni Feʻao who works at Mr Appleʻs orchards said he has been in New Zealand now for 10 years through the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

When he first came to Hawkes Bay he said he did not know how to speak English. He said he can now speak the language after Mr Apple enrolled them in a free educational and training courses.

He said that through this programme the Tongan fruit pickers can study English language, computer technologies, carpentry and many others depending on what courses the students wanted.

Feʻao said in May every year the Tongan groups in Mr Apple’s orchards send 10 container of goods to their families in Tonga.

He asked the Prime Minister on behalf of his co-workers if he can do something to help them in paying the import tariffs imposed on their cargoes.

He said they spent more than NZ$5000 to have their containers shipped to Tonga before they would return and they could afford it.

But when they had arrived in the kingdom and went to the wharf to clear their containers most of them could not afford the TP$3,000 custom duty.

The Prime Minister was in Hawkes Bay on Monday as part of his 5-day visit to New Zealand to meet the RSE Employers in Hastings and Kerikeri.


The Prime Minister replied and said he could not promise he can do something about their request as there is a Minister who is responsible for the country’s Ministry of Custom and Revenues.

But he said he will talk to the Minister when he returns to Tonga and ask him to consider their requests.

His response was loudly applauded.

Hon Pohiva said the government struggled to get money to pay for its services and part of the annual budget relied heavily on overseas budget supports.

He said the tariff imposed on import cargoes is one of the significant sources of revenue which helped the government to be able to provide its services for the people.

He said there are duty-free goods such as building and educational materials.

He encouraged the pickers to send most of the duty-free materials.

The Ministry’s CEO Kulu ‘Anisi Bloomfield said food classified by the government as healthy is also duty-free.

He said the government has no control over other charges on import container goods such as freight, insurance, delivery and brokerage fees.