Royal New Zealand Navy Captain Shaun Fogarty retired early from his role as Defence Adviser for Australia and India, based in Canberra, to take a new role in Alexandra.

He remains in the Naval Reserve, keeping his rank of captain, but goes by Mr as the new chief executive officer at Seasonal Solutions Co-operative (SSC). The co-operative provides seasonal and permanent workers in the horticulture and viticulture industries.

Mr Fogarty was drawn to the job by its nature and the Central Otago location.

He and his wife, Felicity, have for 10 years owned a historic stone cottage in Clyde.

“My wife and I have always been passionate about coming here long-term beyond the military,” he said.

The co-operative nature of SSC, which has 65 shareholders, mainly in Otago with a small number in Canterbury and Marlborough, was another attraction.”I love the idea of a co-operative and the collective will of a group of growers that are really delivering to the prosperity of New Zealand,” Mr Fogarty said.

“It’s not about making a large profit, it’s about making sure our shareholders have the right people with the right skills.”

Mr Fogarty was well qualified to helm the co-operative, with qualifications including a Master of Logistics and Supply Chain Management from Massey University and a Master of Management from the University of Canberra.

He also had a wealth of experience in the Pacific, deployed to Timor Leste to monitor the 1999 independence referendum, and returned there as an operational planner during the 2006 crisis.

He said he was attracted by the RSE scheme, under which SSC employs 1140 workers over a 12-month period.

“I’ve seen the benefit it brings to societies,” he said.

Not only is SSC the employer for these workers, but they look after their pastoral care.

Lately, that has included dealing with the effects of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

“We’re getting a steady drumbeat of workers getting Omicron and having to isolate in bubbles,” he said.

As harvest for the 2022 vintage ramps up across Central Otago vineyards, isolation is another labour issue, alongside fewer backpackers in New Zealand on working holiday visas.

There was great support from locals in the region, Mr Fogarty said, but there were still real shortages despite that.

“It’s a great season in terms of growth, but with labour shortages, some fruit won’t get picked.”