Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse says more than 250,000 visa applications have been made online since the service became available in August 2014.
“Immigration ONLINE is helping to transform the immigration system by delivering more efficient visa services and a better customer experience,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“A rapid uptake in the last year has seen the number of ONLINE applications reach 261,000 – an increase of more than 80,000 in the last year.”
In Budget 2015, the Government invested $28.4 million to improve the technology to extend Immigration ONLINE.
“We are now seeing the benefit of that investment with 60 per cent of visa applicants able to apply online now, expanding to 80 per cent of all visa applicants from early next year.
“Immigration ONLINE is more efficient and often less expensive for applicants, which is why it is now the preferred channel for submitting temporary work and student visa applications.
“Immigration ONLINE is an example of the government’s commitment to deliver better public services by making greater use of technology.”
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse today confirmed changes to temporary work visa conditions following an extensive consultation process.
“The Government is committed to striking the right balance between ensuring New Zealanders are at the front of the queue for jobs and making sure our regions have access to temporary migrant labour necessary for sustained economic growth,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“We are also committed to ensuring that lower-skilled migrants are clear about their future prospects in New Zealand, which is why we consulted on a number of changes to temporary work visa conditions.”
The changes consulted on included introducing remuneration bands to help determine skill levels; a maximum duration of three years for lower-skilled visa holders, after which a minimum stand down period will apply before they are eligible for another lower-skilled visa; and requirements for partners and children of lower-skilled visa holders to meet visa conditions in their own right.
“The consultation process resulted in around 170 submissions and today’s announcement shows the Government has listened to the feedback raised by employers and industry, particularly in the regions,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“While the minimum stand down periods and visa requirements for partners and children will still apply for lower-skilled migrants, we are amending the remuneration band for mid-skilled migrants to address issues raised during the consultation process.
“As a result, the remuneration band for mid-skilled will be 85 per cent of the New Zealand median income, which is currently $41,538 a year, instead of $48,859 as proposed during consultation.
“This means that any migrant earning below $41,538 a year will be considered lower-skilled and will be subject to the stand down periods. Any migrant earning between $41,538 and $73,299 a year in an occupation classified as ANZSCO Level 1 – 3 will be considered mid-skilled, and those earning over $73,299 a year will automatically be considered higher-skilled, regardless of their occupation.
“The new mid-skilled remuneration band recognises the fact that these workers are filling genuine skill shortages and are more likely to progress with further skills acquisition or work experience. It also provides more certainty for employers in planning and training their workforce.
“The consultation process also uncovered a misunderstanding around what the changes mean in terms of employers’ ability to continue to access lower-skilled migrants.
“I want to reassure employers that the changes announced today are not designed to reduce the number of migrants coming in on temporary work visas.
“Employers will continue to be able to employ migrant workers where there are genuine labour or skill shortages. However, these changes will help provide clarity around the conditions under which temporary migrants come here.
“Today’s announcement is another example of this Government’s responsible, pragmatic approach to immigration and is in stark contrast to Opposition parties who want to decimate the regions by cutting immigration by tens of thousands.”
The changes to temporary work visa conditions will be introduced on 28 August, alongside the previously announced changes to the Skilled Migrant residence category.
Other issues highlighted during consultation will also be addressed during Phase Two of the review of temporary migration settings.
These include developing a framework for further targeting of immigration settings by sectors and regions, developing proposals to incentivise and reward good employer behaviour, and ensuring that seasonal work visas reflect seasonal work.
Phase Two will also address concerns raised by primary industries that the current ANZSCO lacks classifications for some jobs and therefore disadvantages workers whose occupations are classed at a lower-level by default.
For more information, visit www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/media-centre/news-notifications/changes-temporary-migrant-work-settings.
Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse has today introduced the Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill to Parliament.
“The Bill implements the recommendations made by the Joint Working Group and aims to address one of the material barriers to achieving pay equity,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“The Bill provides a practical and fair process for employees to follow if they feel they are not being paid what their job is worth.
“It will also make it easier for employees to file pay equity claims directly with their employers rather than having to go through the courts.
"To support an effective and efficient pay equity regime, the Bill includes regulation making powers that prescribe additional matters that can be taken into account when considering:whether a pay equity claim has merit matters that can be considered as part of a pay equity assessment identifying appropriate comparators.
“The Government is committed to achieving pay equity in New Zealand and the introduction of this Bill is a significant step toward ensuring female dominated jobs are paid fairly and closing the gender pay gap.”
The Bill will repeal and replace the Equal Pay Act 1972 and the Government Service Equal Pay Act 1960, and amend the Employment Relations Act 2000.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges and ACC Minister Michael Woodhouse have welcomed an initiative for the development of a national cycling education system aimed at getting more kids riding bikes safely.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges announced today that the Transport Agency and ACC have approved an initial $2.7 million of funding to establish the system by June 2018. The total investment including delivery of cycling education is expected to be around $24 million over four years.
“Cycling is an important life skill and we want to make sure that all kids in New Zealand have the opportunity to learn to ride a bike safely from an early age,” Mr Bridges says.
“Cycling is a great way to get around, to stay active, or to just have fun with friends and family. Kids love to ride bikes but in recent years there has been a significant drop off in kids cycling. This new system is designed to help reverse that trend and establish a safe system approach to cycling that will see a return of more kids getting around by bike every day.
“The Government’s $333 million Urban Cycleway Programme is creating safer and more connected shared paths and cycleways throughout New Zealand.
“As we improve our environment for people on bikes and more people start to cycle, we need to make sure they have the skills, experience and confidence required to enjoy the ride,” Mr Bridges says.
“Over the last five years, bike related injury claims to ACC have increased by 25 per cent, so ensuring people have the skills to ride safely is paramount,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Many Councils around New Zealand are already delivering some cycling education. This new national approach, designed and delivered jointly by central and local government, and the community, will build on the great work already underway. This is all about making it more effective and reaching more people and being able to assess its impact on improving safety and encouraging more people to ride.”
The system, aligned with the school curriculum, is focused on giving people the skills they need at the right time in their life – from learning bike handling skills in primary school through to learning road rules and how to ride on-road when they are ready. The system will also offer opportunities for adults who haven’t ridden a bike for a while with programmes designed to help them improve their skills on both standard and e-bikes.
“We’re developing this national programme using very best practice, some of it home grown right here in New Zealand. We are leading the world with our Bikes in Schools programme,” Mr Bridges says.
“By 2021 our goal by is to double the number of children currently receiving on-road training and to double the number of schools running the Bikes in Schools programme.”
Good Morning and thank you for that introduction Mike.
Thank you to Horticulture NZ for the invitation to come and speak to you. It’s fantastic to be here in Blenheim at this wonderful Convention Centre – what a great facility.
I would like to acknowledge Prime Minister Enele S Sopaga of Tuvalu and the Pacific Ministers from Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa and Solomon Islands. It’s nice to see you again.
It’s a big year for the RSE scheme – 10 years since it was first introduced and what a difference it has made. To the horticulture and viticulture industries, to business growth, to Kiwis looking for work, and of course, to the Pacific communities.
As I stand here today, I can’t help but think back to 2007 when the RSE scheme began, with around 65 RSE employers and a national cap of just 5,000. Today, there’s more than 130 RSE employers and the national cap has more than doubled to 10,500.
That growth is a vote of confidence in the scheme. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise that this ground-breaking policy has been such a success.
The RSE scheme has been regarded as one of the best circular migration schemes in the world, and without the dedication and willingness from employers to try something new back in 2007, we wouldn’t be here today celebrating its 10th anniversary.
If we think back to 2007, I’m sure many of you here today will remember all too well the fruit that was left rotting on the ground because of the lack of workers available to do the work.
Not only has the RSE scheme helped prevent that, it’s also led to better quality and more productive workers, as well as a more stable workforce for the horticulture and viticulture industries.
As a result, many businesses have been able to grow and expand. In fact, since 2007, 82 per cent of RSE employers have expanded their cultivation areas, with most agreeing that participation in the RSE scheme was a contributing factor to this expansion.
I’m also aware that participation in the RSE scheme has enabled employers to employ more New Zealand workers in addition to their RSE workers. As you will know, the Government is committed to getting more Kiwis into training, education or employment.
I’m sure Social Development Minister Anne Tolley will talk about that more later today, but let me just say that I’m encouraged by the fact that more than 170 unemployed New Zealanders have so far moved to the horticultural regions and taken part in the New Zealand Seasonal Work Scheme. I want to applaud you as employers for helping make this happen.
When we increased the cap, we also set you a challenge to tell a better story in terms of your recruitment, training and development of Kiwi workers and I’m encouraged to see the progress being made in this respect.
However, after 10 years, we need to be mindful of both the size and the management of the RSE scheme.
I understand the theme of this year’s conference is “Resilient, Sustainable, Ethical” which is very fitting. The 10th anniversary provides the perfect opportunity to celebrate the success of the scheme, as well as focus on what is needed in order to sustain the scheme’s success into the future. And I think the ‘Ethical’ element has an important role to play in that.
While many RSE employers may represent the best of the best in terms of industry standards and employment conditions for their workers, there’s no doubt that there are other employers who are letting the horticulture and viticulture industries down.
This has become particularly evident in Marlborough recently with a number of complaints being made to the Labour Inspectorate about employers not meeting their minimum employment standards obligations.
It is simply unacceptable that those employers who breach employment and/or immigration law are still able to recruit from the international labour market and disadvantage those employers who do the right thing.
That’s why in February this year, the Government announced stand-down periods during which time employers who flout the law will be banned from recruiting further migrant workers.
Since we made those changes, 53 employers have been stood down from recruiting migrant workers. However, I’m pleased to learn that only four of those employers are in the horticulture and viticulture industries.
That, combined with the results of a recent joint agency operation undertaken by Immigration NZ, the Labour Inspectorate and IRD, which found that the level of non-compliance that was uncovered was a considerable improvement on past operations, tells me that we are heading in the right direction as far as compliance goes.
But it’s equally important that RSE employers take responsibility for your supply chain. It’s no longer sufficient to think your responsibilities end with your direct employees.
It is in everyone’s interests to ensure poorer performers in the industry, beyond the RSE scheme, do not jeopardize the success of the scheme. Because that success is important, not just here in New Zealand, but in the Pacific communities as well.
The RSE scheme provides the mainly Pacific workers with an invaluable experience and the chance of being able to send money back to their communities at home.
RSE workers contribute more than $40 million per annum to the Pacific and recent surveys show that many workers are sending 40% of their wages home.
The benefit of this is highlighted in some of the stories from people who take part. Whether it be the Fijian woman who put herself through aviation school to become a pilot through the money she made working in New Zealand, or the Ni-Van worker who now owns rental properties and runs a cattle farm from the money he saved.
While it’s only been 10 years, we’re already hearing that one of the benefits to come out of the scheme is that the children of these workers are being educated. We cannot begin to measure the long-term benefits of outcomes like this.
However, it’s not just the RSE workers that are giving back to the Pacific communities. I’ve heard a number of stories about New Zealand employers going the extra mile for their workers and their villages. I can’t name all of them, but examples include employers such as Birdhurst and Pick Hawke’s Bay, who have sent builders and building supplies in the wake of the destructive hurricanes in Fiji and Vanuatu.
Vinepower’s connection to Ni-Van workers led it to opening an organic coffee and coconut oil business in Vanuatu for RSE workers to have opportunity at home. This shows the strength of the community that has been fostered between New Zealand and the Pacific as a result of the scheme.
So as the RSE scheme continues to grow and we hear more and more stories like these, it’s equally important that we look to the future and the sustainability of the scheme.
The Government is aware that the horticulture and viticulture industries require high volumes of workers for seasonal work in order to continue growing and to increase exports to $10 billion by 2020.
Our decision to increase the national cap to 10,500 in December 2016 shows the Government’s commitment to enabling the industry to continue to grow and maximise export returns, while ensuring New Zealanders also benefit from this growth.
With the number of RSE workers and employers both increasing, we have also seen a recent rise in the number of incidents involving RSE workers which has resulted in some negative publicity.
While these incidents are small when you look at the total number of workers arriving each year, which is equivalent to a town the size of Greymouth or Gore, there have already been over 40 incidents this year – more than the total number for last year and we are only at the 6 month mark.
I know that Immigration officials work with a number of key parties including employers, police and the community to investigate and follow up any incident as quickly as practicable. They also have a zero tolerance for the misbehaviour of workers and any who are found to have breached the conditions of their visas are usually returned home within a matter of days.
Education and information at the start of the process is absolutely vital. Preparing the RSE workers and educating them on their responsibilities for working in New Zealand is the most effective way to ensure they understand the importance of good behaviour and the repercussions of misconduct.
As you know, workers are already provided with a wealth of information before they leave home and on arrival in New Zealand, and an induction programme has also now been developed for RSE workers coming here.
But it’s clear more needs to be done to ensure the message gets home. I know that INZ has contacted all RSE employers to emphasise the importance of pastoral care and ensuring their workers behave appropriately.
The same message has been given to the Governments of RSE-sending countries. I’m reassured by the measures many of them have already put in place such as the Fijian Government’s recent announcement banning workers who damage the country’s reputation from further seasonal work opportunities for four years.
It’s crucial that we all take responsibility for the roles we play to ensure the sustainability of the RSE scheme. The scheme is a fantastic eco-system and is a credit to the strong relationships that have been built between employers, workers, government officials and our Pacific neighbours.
I look forward to seeing the continued to success of the RSE scheme for many years to come
Finance Minister Steven Joyce and ACC Minister Michael Woodhouse have today announced the sale of FairWay Resolution from Crown ownership to employee ownership with effect from July this year.
“Employee-ownership is a successful business model that will give staff a greater role in the future direction of the company,” Mr Joyce says.
“The change in ownership will also reflect positively in the way staff work, which has a direct flow on for clients.”
Fairway started in 1999 as the Dispute Resolution Service within ACC before becoming an independent Crown entity in 2011, and is New Zealand’s largest specialist conflict management company with a team of over 200 people throughout New Zealand.
“An independent review of the ACC dispute resolution process in 2016 found that Crown ownership affected clients’ perceptions of FairWay’s independence and the report cited change of ownership as a possible solution,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“With today’s announcement, any doubts that clients may have had about the complete independence of FairWay can be laid to rest.”
Independent advice was relied upon to identify and assess appropriate options for the long-term ownership of the company with the employee ownership model best for the crown and company. The agreed purchase price was $6.5 million
The Government has today announced $10 million in new funding to expand Pacific labour mobility, as the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme celebrates ten years of success.
Foreign Minister Gerry Brownlee and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse say the RSE scheme is an innovative immigration policy that fulfils a labour need in New Zealand while giving Pacific workers the chance to earn an income and gain skills.
“Due to the scheme’s success, the Government has approved $10 million over an initial five-year period to explore what other sectors of the economy – where there is continued high demand for labour – RSE workers are well placed to make a contribution to,” Mr Brownlee says.
“In particular, the Government will be exploring employment opportunities for Pacific women and develop prospects in semi-skilled, higher-income occupations.
“The new funding is in addition to $5 million for the training of Pacific workers in New Zealand and forms a significant component of the recently-signed Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relations Plus,” Mr Brownlee says.
Mr Woodhouse says 10 years on, the scheme is still regarded as ground-breaking and among the most effective development policies in the world.
“During its 10 years, the RSE scheme has more than doubled from 5,000 seasonal workers in 2007, to 10,500 in 2017, and has played a key role in supporting industry growth in New Zealand’s horticulture and viticulture sectors,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“It has also played an integral role in supporting economic growth, with RSE workers contributing more than $40 million every year to the Pacific.
“At the heart of the scheme’s success are the strong relationships that have been forged over the last decade with government and industry, and with the highly valued Pacific workers who are welcomed into our communities each year,” Mr Woodhouse says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment partner on the delivery of the RSE scheme.
Attorney-General Christopher Finlayson and Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse were in Ottawa, Canada this week to attend the annual Five Country Ministerial.
The Five Country Ministerial brings together Interior Ministers, Immigration Ministers and Attorneys General from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand to discuss a range of common national security issues and identify areas for collaboration. This year topics included counter-terrorism, cyber-security and border security.
“New Zealand takes our partnership with our Five Country colleagues extremely seriously,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“At a time when global terror threats are heightened, these meetings are an opportunity to share intelligence and ideas with our Five Country colleagues, particularly in relation to border security issues and the general movement of people.”
While in Ottawa, Mr Finlayson also attended the Attorneys General Quintet, now in its eighth year. The Quintet brings together the Attorneys General of the same five countries to share approaches to a range of complex and trans-border legal issues.
This year’s meeting included a session led by New Zealand to discuss current legal frameworks for intelligence and evidence in legal proceedings.
“Our countries are dealing with a number of common issues, many of them with cross-border aspects,” Mr Finlayson says.
“These meetings provide a valuable opportunity to work with jurisdictions similar to our own on difficult challenges posed to security, law enforcement and the courts.”
The Five County Ministerial Joint Communiqué issued at the conclusion of the meeting is available here: www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/fv-cntry-mnstrl-2017/index-en.aspx.
The Quintet of Attorneys General Joint Communiqué will be available shortly.
Border sector Ministers have welcomed a new report by the Office of the Auditor-General published today on the use of information at New Zealand’s ports, and say their agencies will continue to work closely to protect our borders.
“This is a positive report which recognises good collaboration between the three border agencies. It finds there are strong relationships and effective processing of passengers,” says Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.
“The agencies are already working on the report’s recommendations, including briefings for new staff on the different agencies’ roles and for an updated Border Sector strategy.”
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says the report shows staff are working effectively and recently updated training programmes are a particular strength.
“Biosecurity is my number one priority as Minister so it is pleasing to see another good report card. This follows a positive Office of the Auditor General report in 2015 showing the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has made very good progress in biosecurity responses and preparedness.
“In this year’s Budget we boosted biosecurity funding to nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. This has helped MPI employ 50 new biosecurity staff and 20 extra biosecurity detector dog teams, along with new x-ray machines, a border clearance levy and the Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement.”
Customs Minister Tim Macindoe says it is pleasing to see Customs and MPI staff are working together effectively.
“The report acknowledges the recently updated frontline training programmes as a particular strength, and notes improved collaboration between Border Sector Agencies in recent years.
“Initial scoping is underway between Customs and MPI to look at opportunities for joint Border Sector training and recruitment. This will help to improve awareness of and understanding between frontline staff at the two agencies.”
World Refugee Day is an opportunity to celebrate the strength, courage and tenacity of refugees around the world and acknowledge the contribution they make here in New Zealand, says Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse.
“It’s important we take the time to recognise the difficult journey refugees have been on and the obstacles they have, and continue to, overcome,” says Mr Woodhouse.
“The Government takes our responsibility to provide protection to refugees extremely seriously which is why last year we announced an increase to the annual refugee quota by a third to 1,000 from 2018/19.
“We are also committed to improving resettlement outcomes for the refugees we do take, which is why we introduced the Refugee Resettlement Strategy in 2012.
The Strategy aims to help refugees adapt to life in New Zealand as quickly as possible and support them to achieve better settlement outcomes and recent data shows it’s working.
“More school leavers with a refugee background with five years or more in the New Zealand education system are gaining NCEA Level 2 and more refugee children are also receiving age-appropriate immunization, with 85 per cent of refugee children receiving one or more scheduled vaccinations within six months of their arrival in New Zealand.
“World Refugee Day is also a time to pay tribute to the scores of volunteers and organisations that play such a vital part in helping refugees feel welcome in their new communities and ensuring they have access to everything they need.
I am always encouraged by the number of volunteers and organisations involved in helping refugees adapt to life here in New Zealand and I have no doubt they will be integral to the success of the community sponsorship category pilot next year.”