For New Zealand employers, Stephen and Sally Darling, the continuation of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) and the employment of Solomon Islanders is critical towards the operations of their company.
Since 2008, Darlings Fruit Limited had been recruiting Solomon Islanders to work at Apple and Apricot orchards in the Central Otago region on New Zealand’s South Island.
This past week, Stephen Darling and his wife Sally were in Honiara to attend the wedding of one of their long-time employees and to reiterate and strengthen the close bond their company has with Solomon Islands since their first recruitment 16 years ago.
They paid a courtesy visit to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and External Trade to inform them of their operations and to highlight issues of improvement going forward.
Managing Director of Darlings Fruit Limited, Stephen Darling said given their remote locality in New Zealand, accessing workers to work in their orchards is an ongoing challenge.
With the RSE scheme they are able to supplement their workforce with workers from outside New Zealand to fill in shortages in their operations.
MFAET Trade Commissioner, Barrett Salato reiterated the Solomon Islands availability of workers to fill in shortages experienced by RSE employers.
He said while other Pacific Island countries are reviewing their place in both the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility (PALM) and RSE schemes, the Solomon Islands has an ambitious policy position to increase participation in those schemes.
Mr. Salato welcomed New Zealand’s review of the RSE scheme which the Solomon Islands government is hoping would bring improvement for workers and employers involved.
Mr. Darling said his company had a long relationship with the Solomon Islands almost after the introduction of the RSE scheme.
He said since 2008 they had a steady growth of workers from the Solomon Islands which peaked to 25 in 2020 before COVID-19 border closures disrupted work.
“Over the past years, we have had no social issues or alcohol related problems with any of our workers, something we are really grateful for.
He stressed that they have a good relationship with the men and women who came to work in their orchards is key and Darlings Fruit Limited place high value on good relationships between everyone.
This year the company recruited 18 workers and are hoping to retain the same number of workers in 2024. The company is also seeking to increase their intake depending on a decision by the New Zealand government to allow for capacity increase.
The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme came into effect in April 2007. The policy allows the horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there are not enough New Zealand workers.