Overseas workers who have not seen home for up to 18 months are seeking assurances they can return to New Zealand if they pay family a flying visit. Pacific Island workers at Vailima Orchard in Hope, south of Nelson are in the midst of their harvest season, putting in long hours to meet the fruit demand for their employers as well as earning money for their communities back home. Lolohea Huni is one of the many workers who come to New Zealand each year to earn a living as part of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme. Back home on Tonga’s main island Tongatapu, he would have been a delivery driver for a fraction of the money he is making at Vailima’s Hope orchard. Covid-19 has kept him in New Zealand since March last year. Some on the scheme have spent up to 18 months away from home. When New Zealand’s border was closed in March last year, there were 10,989 RSE workers in the country. Currently, there are around 7,300 RSE workers in New Zealand.
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