With a bud burst well underway in Central Otago vineyards and work ramping up in orchards, the Central Otago District Council is beginning a campaign to help local businesses meet seasonal demand for workers.

The Spare Room, Spare Time campaign encourages locals to invite out-of-town friends and whanau to have a summer working holiday in the region’s many vineyards, orchards or market gardens, to ease predicted seasonal labour shortage.

At the peak of demand, in December and January, Central Otago requires approximately 6000 seasonal workers to assist in the horticulture and viticulture sectors for the summer season. These staff would normally be sourced through the Government-backed Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, international backpackers and, to a lesser extent, local youth, but Covid-19 restrictions mean for a second summer workers are harder to come by.

Central Otago District Council economic development manager Nick Lanham said they were calling on Central Otago locals to “invite your friends and family to come and experience a Central Otago summer working holiday”.

“Make up that spare bed and offer to put them up.”

As part of the campaign, the council will be producing “Wish you were here” postcards, which will be available at libraries, i-SITEs and service centres for people to send to friends and family with an invite to come to stay. The campaign also invites locals with extra time to take up summer job opportunities themselves.

Chad Douglas, of Estate Vineyard Management, provides staff to vineyards in Tarras, Bendigo, Bannockburn and Alexandra.

He said his company relied mainly on locals because accommodation shortages and high rentals limited workers relocating for seasonal work.

“Even for the RSE workers, getting accommodation that is affordable is a major factor in how many can be employed, he said.

Lucienne Beyer, owner of Immigrants Vineyard and Ruru Wines with her husband, Roland, said the council’s campaign would be welcomed by vineyard owners and orchardists as many of them were looking for workers. However, she cautioned that potential employees needed to be made aware of the physical nature of such work.