19 Feb 2009

Australia begins Pacific seasonal worker scheme

9:24 am on 19 February 2009

The first group of Pacific Islanders working in Australia's pilot seasonal workers scheme are set to arrive next week to pick fruit in orchards in Victoria.

The scheme has been set up along similar lines to New Zealand's recognised seasonal employer scheme introduced in 2007.

It aims to tackle Australia's long-running shortage of horticultural workers and help ailing Pacific Island economies.

The trial scheme will bring 2,500 workers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea to Australia on temporary work visas to do seasonal agricultural work such as fruit picking.

New Zealand's horticulture industry has said it hopes that it can work with Australia so that there are enough Pacific workers to meet both countries' requirements.