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Samoan PM Tuilaepa Sailele bans villages from NZ’s Pacific seasonal workers scheme

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Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malalegoi has banned seven villages on the island nation from taking part in New Zealand’s seasonal workers scheme.

The ban was put in place after men from the villages got into trouble while in New Zealand.

Most involved in the scheme stay out of trouble, but there have been instances of drunkenness, and some have been deported.

In response Mr Tuilaepa has banned seven villages from providing workers for the scheme, saying it will force the village people and their chiefs to take collective responsibility.

“It’s a collective responsibility for the elders of the village, the chiefs to ensure that those who have the benefit of joining the scheme will be the ones that will bring honour, not dishonour to the villages,” he said.

“So it is a good scheme in the sense also the elders of the villages be part of the monitoring process to ensure that only the best will be those who are sent in.”

Under the scheme, thousands of people from the Pacific – including from Samoa, Tonga, Vanuatu, Tuvalu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea – travel to New Zealand each year to help ease seasonal labour shortages.

A similar system exists in Australia for seasonal workers from East Timor, Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

Mr Tuilaepa spoke with the latest contingent of workers headed to Australia, and says they have a responsibility to protect the reputation of their country and its participation in the scheme.

“We have a zero tolerance policy whereby the people that come to work have been forewarned that they must never commit any actions that would jeopardise the scheme, in the sense that they have to abide by the laws of New Zealand and Australia,” he said.

“The Seasonal Workers Scheme is one where the leaders of the Forum Island governments have been talking about a lot with both New Zealand and Australian governments to give the workers from the islands more opportunities to have employment opportunities through these kinds of schemes.

“It requires of the government to be vigilant against those who do not honour the agreements made to put on their best behaviours and abide by the code already agreed to.”

Mr Tuilaepa says there has been positive response to the bans, and with 200 villages on the island nation there’s no shortage of replacement workers keen to take part.

He says Samoa has seen benefits from participating in the scheme and would like those to continue.

“There are many families who have had their homes repaired or new homes built – others have invested in buying vehicles, others buying lands, freehold lands and for community projects, like churches and school buildings, community halls,” he said.

“The scheme has helped enormously towards the construction of these for the villages.”

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