26 Mar 2015

Most Vanuatu seasonal workers stay in NZ

9:08 pm on 26 March 2015

Cyclone Pam has not had as much of an impact on New Zealand's seasonal work force as first thought.

Water supplied in Vanuatu aid effort

Water supplied in Vanuatu aid effort after Cyclone Pam Photo: AFP / UNICEF PACIFIC

More than 2500 workers from Vanuatu are employed in New Zealand's horticulture and viticulture industries as part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme.

When Cyclone Pam lashed Vanuatu almost two weeks ago, communication problems left many islands isolated, leaving workers in New Zealand fearing the worst for their families.

Horticulture New Zealand national co-ordinator for seasonal labour Jerf Van Beek said about 130 people had decided to return to Vanuatu, but the majority decided to stay.

"The raw emotion initially would have always sprung up 'hey I need to go home, I need to go and help my family, my community', but talking it through, as the reports came through they decided that maybe it is better to stay in New Zealand and earn that so important money to actually rebuild their lives back home again and we as employers really support that and at times have even supported them to actually make more work available for them where we can."

Mr Van Beek said most people that came to New Zealand were unemployed back home and could earn between $5000 and $12,000 in around five months.

He said the cyclone did not disrupt workers coming to New Zealand and as soon as the airport's runway was re-opened, workers from Vanuatu began arriving.

Mr Van Beek said the industry now wanted to help upskill workers and provide them with resources for when they returned home and faced the rebuild.

"Just to put containers full with clothing and water and water purification tablets is great, but also the knowledge that we can give our workers to take back is even more important because that knowledge can be shared.

"Clothing only goes so far, knowledge continues to be shared, so we're in discussions with MFAT at this point to see if we can actually take some time and find some funding to actually provide training to our Nievans before they return home and see if we can actually provide them with the knowledge to rebuild resilient homes."