Warkworth Kiribati resettlement role praised

Warkworth Kiribati resettlement role praised

While on a global campaign to reduce greenhouse emissions , Kiribati President Anote Tong visited Southern Paprika in Warkworth last month.
Warkworth is leading the way in enabling people from Kiribati to resettle with dignity, according to Kiribati President Anote Tong.

President Tong visited capsicum producer Southern Paprika on Woodcocks Road, last month. He was in New Zealand as part of a global tour to get countries to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Finding a future for Kiribati’s 104,000 people has become a priority for President Tong. The small island nation, which is on average just two metres above sea level, is at the coal-face of rising sea levels and ocean acidification.

“I’m preaching to the world for migration with dignity,” Mr Tong said. “Warkworth is doing exactly that.”

The Government’s Recognised Seasonal Employee (RSE) visa arrangement was key to this process.

Southern Paprika employs about 70 to 80 permanent Kiribati workers and 38 seasonal workers through the RSE scheme.

During a meeting with Southern Paprika managing director Hamish Alexander, the pair said the scheme could be improved.

Mr Alexander said the RSE rules required businesses to apply for new permits each year and gave no certainty that workers could return.

“It would be great to get multi-year approval for applications,” Mr Alexander said. “At the moment we have no certainty. How are we meant to make a capital investment if we don’t know whether we will have the staff to do it?
It’s unfair people have to renegotiate their visa every time they come back. It needs to be taken to a Government level.”

Mr Tong said he would write a letter to the Government encouraging changes to the scheme. He said it was also crucial Kiribati workers maintained a good reputation overseas.

“Kiribati workers have an incredible sense of pride and that comes from them performing well. We need to look after each other. It’s important to show people back home that this is not impossible. You can own your own home or farm if you work at it. That’s not the sort of thing that top politicians in Kiribati are able to even dream of.
“New Zealand is also winning out of it.”

Mr Alexander said that the Kiribati workforce had been crucial to the growth of his business.

“They aren’t taking jobs; they are creating jobs by the economic activity they help to create. We wouldn’t be here without them.”

He said the Kiribati people were integrating into the community and many of the workers had been able to buy their own house and some were going on to study at university. Mr Alexander also highlighted the work of former Warkworth School music teacher Linda Gribble in encouraging Pasifika performances in Mahurangi.

Mr Tong was pleased to hear the citizens were doing well.

“It’s such a wonderful opportunity and it’s so gratifying to hear.”

He said a lot people don’t realise how difficult it could be for the islanders to settle in another country.
“Often they sell everything they own to move.”

He hopes a documentary will be made to promote NZ to Kiribati workers.

President Tong said his campaign to get countries to make ambitious commitments to combat climate change was necessary for the future of his country.

“Otherwise nobody seems to listen, no matter how relevant the information may be.”

Kiribati has secured 20 square kilometres of land in Fiji.

Mr Tong is the fourth president of Kiribati and has led the country since 2003. He spent some of his formative years in NZ, studying at St Bede’s College in Christchurch where he graduated from Canterbury University with a Bachelor of Science. He also has a Masters in Economics from the London School of Economics.
His term as president ends later this year when he hopes to take up a role in international diplomacy, perhaps at the UN.

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