Up to 12 seasonal workers from the Pacific are unaccounted for in the aftermath of Cyclone Gabrielle.
Immigration Minister Michael Wood confirmed they had been made aware that a group of workers here under the Recognised Seasonal Employment scheme had not yet been located.
Speaking to TVNZ’s Breakfast show this morning, Wood said there were 5000 RSE workers in the broader area of Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.
The majority of workers had been accounted for and were being looked after by either their employers or at various evacuation sites set up over the past few days.
Authorities believed the missing 12 may have made their own way to different evacuation sites around those areas.
Wood said a big priority today would be to find them.
He did not know which countries the workers are from in the Pacific, but said that their respective governments had been told about the situation.
There are nine Pacific Island nations signed up to the RSE scheme, which has been going for almost 16 years now and allows workers to travel to New Zealand to work at orchards and vineyards around the country - including in Hawke’s Bay, Marlborough and the Bay of Plenty.
Those countries are: Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Nauru and the Solomon Islands.
Samoan RSE workers all accounted for so far
RSE liaison for Samoa, Niuafolau Helen Uiese, told the Herald that all workers from Samoa had been accounted for, so far.
Many of the workers are based in Hawke’s Bay and although were affected by the weather event and flooding, had not reported any injuries or casualties.
“We thank God everyone is okay and being cared for at evacuation sites. We’re just grateful to the Pacific community, local Samoan church communities, the Police, the army, Civil Defence and local authorities who have helped us.”
Niuafolau said they were yet to make contact with workers in the Gisborne area, however, due to loss of communication links due to the cyclone.
In the past few days, since the weather bomb hit, she said she had been fielding many calls and messages from family members outside of the area and particularly in Samoa wondering how their loved ones are and whether they are alive.
“When they don’t hear from them, they think the worst. They think they’re dead,” she said.
She and others linked to the RSE workers at evacuation sites were now posting regular updates - including photos and video footage - on Facebook in a bid to keep families overseas updated on the situation on the ground.
- more to come -
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