Growers urged to complete labour survey

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YVONNE O’HARA

yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz

The 2018 Central Otago Labour Market Survey is a “call to action,” for the region’s horticulture and viticulture growers, says survey co-ordinator Tara Druce.

She and Martin Anderson have been asked by the Central Otago District Council to run the survey, which will seek information about existing and future plantings of crops and labour needs, as well as demand for accommodation and other services .

“The message we are trying to get out is we know it takes time to fill out the forms, but it absolutely crucial .. to understand the demand,” Ms Druce said.

“It is a call to action and essential to the sector.”

Ms Druce said she would like the completed survey forms back by July 2, and they would be holding face-to-face interviews with some growers during the next few weeks.

The report with the survey’s findings will be released in August.

Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group chairman Stephen Jeffery said the district’s horticulture and viticulture industries had grown significantly since the last labour survey in 2015. Mr Jeffery said since then there had been significant new plantings throughout the region, particularly for apples and cherries, and it was important to have the information about the current and future growth size of the industries and its labour demands.

“It is important, not just for growers, but for the whole of Central Otago and for our economy,” he said.

“Anecdotally we [are] hearing stories [of new plantings] but we don’t know where they are,” he said.

He said “there was a move towards consolidation of holdings into larger entities and people and companies moving to the sector from outside the region.”

“The growth at the moment is greater than normal, particularly for cherries,” he said.

“There is a huge cherry market in the world.

“New Zealand’s cherries fetch about the highest price in the world, they are a high-quality cherry.”

He said as the industry grew, there was an increasing demand for staff, both skilled, permanent, part-time casual, and backpacker, and that meant increasing demands for worker accommodation and other services.

In addition, freedom camping is an issue.

While growers provided accommodation, Mr Jeffery said a certain percentage of backpackers would not pay even $1 a night for it and would not stay on site, preferring to go somewhere else for free.

While there was adequate packhouse capacity at present, would there be enough space in the future to cope with additional growth?

Another issue was whether there was enough capacity to airfreight cherries to markets, or might it mean sending them by sea freight in future?

The survey will cost $38,000 and is being funded jointly by the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust, Central Otago Winegrowers Association, Seasonal Solutions co-operative Ltd and Central Otago District Council.