Gov’t says it cannot prioritise RSE workers on flights home as New Zealand lays down new rules on 2021 seasonal worker intake

Kuopau pe ke vahevahe taau 'a hono fetuku 'o e kakai Tonga tukuvakā 'i muli' ki Tonga' 'o 'ikai taafataha pe ki he kau toli'. Ko e 'uhinga tefito 'eni kuo 'ikai ai lava ke fakafoki kotoa leva 'a e kau toli mei Nu'u Sila' ke hangē ko e fiema'u 'a e pule'anga 'o Ardern. Ko e taha'i makatu'unga 'eni 'oku 'ikai ma'u ai ha 'inasi 'o Tonga 'i he kau toli 'e toko 2000 mei he Pasifiki' kuo faka'atā 'e Nu'u Sila ke nau tū'uta mai 'i he māhina ka tu'u'. Pea 'oku toe 'i ai pe mo e ngaahi makatu'unga kehe kae taimi tatau ko e toko 1400 tupu Tonga 'oku toe he ngaahi faama 'i Nu'u Sila' te nau kei faingamālie pe ke hoko atu 'o ngāue he toli', fakatatau ki he fakamalata 'a e CEO Dr Fotu Fisi'iahi ki he Kaniva'.

The Tongan government had to give a fair chance for all Tongans stranded overseas to return to Tonga, CEO Dr Fotu Fisi’iahi of the Ministry of Internal Affairs told Kaniva News today.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs CEO Dr Fotu Fisi’iahi. Photo/Facebook

About 7000 people became stuck overseas because of the border closures.

Dr Fisi’iahi said the government could not just prioritise RSE workers.

He said the number of rooms in the quarantine facilities and the number of front line workers at the isolation facilities were also a significant issue.

The only available quarantine facilities in Tonga were the Tanoa Hotel, Makeke and the Taliai camp.

The New Zealand government wants all RSE workers repatriated so Tonga can be allocated a new share of the 2000 employees who were expected to arrive here in New Zealand next month from the Pacific. This meant Tonga missed out on the opportunity.

Tonga is the only Pacific nation with RSE workers left in New Zealand. All other countries taking part in the RSE scheme, including Samoa, Solomon and Vanuatu have flown all their workers home.

More than 400 Tongan RSE workers have been repatriated back home leaving 1475 employees to be repatriated. Most of them continued to work in New Zealand and many wanted to return to Tonga.

Dr Fisi’iahi said Tonga was expected to meet other conditions before it was allocated a share of the 2000 workers expected to arrive in Auckland in January.

RSE workers who had been repatriated to Tonga included those who had family issues, those who were very tired and wanted to have a rest and those whose employers or contractors wanted them to leave as soon as possible because of bad behaviour, he said.

This meant that even though these people had working experiences, it was up to the farmers to decide whether they were selected to return to New Zealand.

“The selection of the new 2000 RSE to come to New Zealand in January 2021 has to be done by the farmers and their associations,” Dr Fisi’iahi said.

“The New Zealand government is not involved in that selection process. The associations were not concerned about Tonga being left out because we still have a lot of workers in New Zealand who are available to work.”

RSE rules

According to Immigration New Zealand, only workers who have completed at least one season in New Zealand will be eligible for employment.

The horticulture and viticulture industries consulted with employers to provide INZ a list of nominated workers to recruit from Pacific countries.

Eligible employers will be required to make special commitments including managed isolation and quarantine requirements.

Visas of RSE workers expiring between 18 August and 31 December 2020 have been extended by six months.

Those who wish to continue to work in New Zealand for the same purpose after these additional six months can apply to stay longer.

All RSE scheme workers granted a flexible visa will be able to re-enter the scheme and work again for a Recognised Seasonal Employer with 30 hours per week average pay.

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