NZ jobs vital for evacuated seasonal workers on Vanuatu's Ambae island

Dozens of ni-Vanuatu seasonal workers are among those forced to leave the volcanic island of Ambae and they're keen to get back to work on New Zealand orchards to relieve their plight.

More than 11,000 people were being moved to the islands of Pentecost, Maewo and Santo when eruption of the Manaro Voui volcano was at its height.

Robin Tuku represents some 50 seasonal workers from the western side of Ambae who've financed homes, small businesses and community projects with their New Zealand earnings.

He said their families could be away from the island for up to a year and the workers wanted to return to New Zealand so they could defray the extra expenses involved with the evacuation.

"Most of us to be honest, they are speechless. We just don't know," he said.

"It's like starting a new page in life because everything we've invested in, like house, or whatever and some of the workers they are depending on loans for houses, small businesses."

The volcanic eruption is continuing, though the alert level has been lowered, and it is not clear when the evacuees will be able to return. The manager of the Geohazards Department, Esline Garaebiti, said last week ash from the volcano had killed crops and contaminated water supplies.


Photo: RNZ / Johnny Blades Thousands of Pacific Islanders come to New Zealand under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, but other visa categories have become harder for Pacific migrants to obtain