The Times Have Changed

There is no doubt that 2023 will be very different to the last few Covid years: New Zealand has a new Prime Minister;
possibly a snap election once PM Hipkins sets out his policy agenda; most likely a coalition Government in October;
face economic peril and rising unemployment; another tough growing season for our key crops; and increased
bureaucratic regulatory impact on our businesses.


One prediction is climate change and compliance time and costs  will increase; growing cost will increase; but earnings will decrease. Simply put the price of everything is increasing - that's inflation and it shows no signs of falling back. Consumer's spending power will reduce and business will face cash flow challenges and liquidation. Added to the financial woes is a country that is socially dysfunctional with protest and crime becoming more prevalent and violent. So 2023 does not look to be exciting at all. But people still need to eat and drink. None of this should come as a surprise to anyone.

What is disappointing and is becoming all too routine is worker exploitation. With that exploitation often being in our horticulture and wine grape sectors. Recently a court case started in Hamilton where the defendants have pleaded not guilty to 99 charges of aiding and abetting people to unlawfully enter New Zealand, aiding them to breach their visa conditions, and giving false information to immigration in 2016. Another  defendant, the owner of a company who contracted the workers out, pleaded not guilty to 12 charges of aiding people to breach visa conditions. The trio’s trial is set down for five weeks. And as far as we can work out there is no connection with NZEE and RSE. What this unfortunately does is highlight to the public, offshore consumers and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner issues facing our industry.

Then in the Pacific we have a Ni-Van RSE Agent arrested for allegedly issuing 100 fake police clearance documents and problems getting visas for workers from Samoa. These and other events are making getting RSE visas more difficult. The RSE policy review and the tripartite group discussions will increase costs for employers that will ripple across the entire workforce. In a year when New Zealand unemployment is predicted to increase employers may turn to New Zealanders and the increased number of backpackers in country for their workforce. Are we to see a
reduced reliance on RSE workers particularly from the Pacific in coming years? This will be perhaps an unintended consequence from the  Government's tightening up on and increasing the complexity of New Zealand's immigration settings. The contrast with Australia and the ease of accessing offshore labour could not be more stark. That's where the Pacific workers are going with Australia targeting 50,000 Pacific workers.

Accordingly I make two predictions for the year ahead. First our sectors reliance on the RSE scheme will reduce and other ways in which to  access labour will of necessity be developed. Second meeting best employer standards will become all the more important both here in New Zealand and across the world.

Through this time of change working with the Government will be vital. In addition employers being able to prove they are best practice employers will be vital. New Zealand Ethical Employers has a pivotal role to undertake and one which we are well placed to take. We have a project underway searching for employment solutions that will be reported on at our Conference at the Papamoa Surf Club 19 to 21 July – put that in your calendars. Go to our website for more details.