A pilot scheme to help Recognised Seasonal Employees (RSEs) send wages home to their families and communities is being trialled in Hawke’s Bay.
The ANZ service, trialled by Fijian RSE workers in Hawke’s Bay in the 2018/2019 picking season and extended to include Marlborough for the 2019/2020 season, lets workers open bank accounts in Fiji before arriving in New Zealand, teaches them how to use internet banking to send money back to their families and keeps their wages safe while in New Zealand.
The programme started last year in response to increased demand for RSE workers in New Zealand, said ANZ managing director commercial and agri Mark Hiddleston.
“On one hand we had business customers telling us they were concerned about the labour shortage; on the other we were hearing stories of RSE workers who didn’t know where or how to keep their wages safe,” Hiddleston said.
“With branches in both Fiji and New Zealand we knew we were in a unique position to help.”
The pilot scheme lets Fiji-based RSEs open a bank account before they leave the country.
Once the workers arrive in New Zealand, the local ANZ team finishes the account opening process and visits the workers on the orchards to issue their Eftpos cards.
Securing temporary and permanent labour can be challenging for growers and without RSE workers a lot of the fruit produced in New Zealand wouldn’t be picked, packed or processed.
“More RSE workers are coming from the Pacific each year which is great for our growers. This year we’ve opened almost 3000 new RSE accounts in the Hawke’s Bay region, up from 30-40 10 years ago.
“We found workers didn’t always understand the banking language and technology used here. To help, local ANZ staff visited the orchards to make sure our customers – both growers and pickers – were getting what they need.”
ANZ’s pilot scheme also offers workers free financial education through ANZ’s MoneyMinded programme.
Aparosa Bulinitarawereierenauvula, from Wayalailai village in Fiji, has worked on the same orchard in the Hawke’s Bay since 2014 and said the pilot programme has helped him understand how to best use his earnings to look after his family and his village.
“It gives us courage to plan, set [financial] goals and try our best to achieve those goals,” he said.
Fiji was chosen as a trial location because the number of RSE workers from there are small in comparison to Samoa, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands.
ANZ is working to extend the pilot scheme to all Pacific countries with RSE workers.