1 Sep 2008

Island labour imports seen as expensive

1:02 pm on 1 September 2008

Marlborough grape growers say the Recognised Seasonal Employment scheme has been an expensive success.

In its first season, the Government scheme to licence contractors brought more than 700 Pacific islanders to prune vines in the region.

Most will have go home again in the next two weeks.

In a review of the policy, Marlborough Wine says the early completion of pruning shows the scheme has worked well.

But labour relations director Dominic Pecchenino says it has been expensive: Pacific Islanders cost about five times more to train than New Zealanders.

He says they arrived here with no grape industry skills and many struggled to adapt to the different way of life in New Zealand.

Some were not used to working a 40 hour week and he says they need to be fitter next time.

He believes the New Zealand and Pacific Island Governments should pay for future orientation camps in the islands.

He says the expense of bringing islanders New Zealand on the RSE scheme can be amortised, but only if 70% - 80% of the workers return year after year.