Ken's story

One of the success stories of the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme is local ni-Vanuatu hero, Ken Natuman.
An image of Ken, and RSE worker, giving a thumbs-up to the camera. .

Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme

The Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) Scheme is often described as a triple win, benefitting workers, their home countries, and addressing labour shortages in New Zealand. RSE is the labour scheme that sees workers from the Pacific come to New Zealand for a number of months to work in horticulture or viticulture when there are not enough local workers.

The scheme has seen many success stories since it started in 2007, including the story of local ni-Vanuatu hero, Ken Natuman.

Ken’s RSE journey began ten years ago when he started work for a vineyard contractor in Central Otago. Thrust into a new lifestyle away from his family and close friends, Ken remembers feeling homesick for a short time before quickly developing a new family – his co-workers and the farmer’s family and workers.

Ken’s charisma and enthusiasm for the job saw him rise through the ranks, eventually becoming a team leader. He received regular leadership training which helped him build his career and support the people who worked for him. Ken said the training sessions helped him learn the value of having a vision for the future and spreading his own success as widely as possible.

Ken took on everything he was taught, saved his earnings and returned home. He used his RSE earnings to rebuild his own home after Cyclone Pam in 2015, and paid school fees for his two daughters and son. Ken also paid school fees for his adopted nephew, who was later awarded a scholarship to study in Fiji and is now a legal adviser on climate change in Port Vila. 

Ken’s success has meant he has also been able to invest in projects to help other members of his family and the wider community. This has included:

  • Building a shop near the hospital that stocks necessities for newborn babies as many families are unprepared for their newborns’ arrival.
  • Buying rotary hoes to assist nearby villages till the soil and prepare it for planting and cultivating taro. This has enabled farmers to grow vegetables again, providing a stable source of food and potential income.
  • Building a house for his son - the first father in his area to do so.
  • Buying a solar-powered deep freezer for local villagers, allowing them to store chicken and not have to travel a long way to buy it.
  • Helping to build community facilities and schools.
  • Teaching members of his team how to build their own homes.

And it isn’t just Vanuatu that benefits from Ken’s work. He and his co-workers regularly perform songs for people in a retirement village in his local community in Aotearoa.

Ken’s story demonstrates the spirit of RSE, showing what is possible to achieve through the scheme and the positive impact it has on our New Zealand and Pacific communities.

Ken stood down from the RSE scheme this season in favour of his 23-year-old son, Robin. Ken’s hope is that his success will inspire Robin to achieve even more, for himself and for future generations.

This year, the Pacific Labour Mobility Annual Meeting (PLMAM) is taking place in Auckland, New Zealand. The meeting brings together regional partners under a shared vision of increased collaboration on Pacific Labour Mobility. The PLMAM will build on the momentum of previous meetings, with discussions on: reducing barriers to participation in labour mobility, supporting workers to make the most of the scheme, and more.

The theme for the 2019 PLMAM is “He waka eke noa – A canoe that we are all in together.”


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