Foreign Affairs Minister praises NZ mobility scheme

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SI Foreign Affairs Minister Milner Tozaka (right) and NZ Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse

Solomon Islands Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, Milner Tozaka has praised the New Zealand Labour Mobility Scheme for the benefits it offered to Solomon Islanders.

Minister Tozaka is in New Zealand this week on a ministerial visit during which he held discussions with a number of New Zealand Government Ministers including the Minister of Immigration, Michael Woodhouse who is responsible for the NZ Recognised Seasonal Employment Scheme.

Solomon Islands currently send more than 600 workers to work in New Zealand’s Horticulture Industry and since 2008 have been remitting money back to their families to pay school fees while returning workers have started their small businesses and build their own houses.

The NZ RSE Scheme started in 2007 and Solomon Islands formally joined in 2010 when it signed the Inter-Agency Understanding (IAU) with the New Zealand government.

Minister Tozaka acknowledged the ‘enormous’ support by New Zealand government authorities and agencies for facilitating the movement of Solomon Islanders under the RSE scheme which included pre-departure trainings, facilitation of temporary work visas and the medical clearance.

“The NZRSE labour mobility scheme is our flagship arrangement that we are proud with and we hope this model can be replicated in other labour mobility schemes so that we can have similar success stories in the future,” he says.

In response, NZ Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse assured Solomon Islands that the New Zealand Government is doing its best to smoothly facilitate the process to ensure workers that go to New Zealand are treated fairly well within the labour laws of New Zealand.

“If there are complains, the government takes it seriously and will work to address those issues and concerns” says Mr Woodhouse.

With the promising economic growth that New Zealand has experienced, there will be more demand for workers to meet the labour gap and Minister Woodhouse said if this positive trend continues, New Zealand will certainly support the continuation of the RSE labour mobility scheme.

The New Zealand government had increased the cap for Pacific RSE workers from 9,500 to 10,500 per annum last year which is great news for the Pacific sending countries.

“It is up to sending countries to market themselves and build closer and stronger relationship with the employers in order to increase their numbers,” Mr Woodhouse says.

While Solomon Islands is still far behind other Pacific Countries in terms of the number of its workers, Minister Tozaka is optimistic the number will increase in the near future with new recruitment approaches by the Solomon Islands Labour Mobility Unit.

Apart from the horticulture industry, Minister Tozaka also sought the engagement of Solomon Islanders in other semi-skilled areas like construction, fisheries and accommodation.

Solomon Islands is also looking forward to sign a new Inter-Agency Understanding (IAU) with New Zealand on the RSE labour mobility scheme during its 10th Anniversary celebrations later this year in New Zealand.

Source: Gov’t Communication Unit