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18 September 2018
New Labour Market Report highlights strong growth and challenges
A new report on labour issues facing Central Otago's horticulture and viticulture sectors indicates ongoing and intensifying labour challenges.
The report's data came from surveys and interviews with horticulture and viticulture growers during June and July this year. Druce Consulting, who produced a previous survey on the sector in 2015, conducted the 2018 survey.
Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group Chair Stephen Jeffery said the level of response to the survey when calculated against planted hectares was very pleasing and gave "a high level of confidence" in the collated data.
"It's becoming increasingly more important that the surveyed industries and the wider community have an overview of projected growth, not only in planted hectares but also projected labour requirements and accommodation.
"It's encouraging to see further growth in Central Otago's rural economy and crucial that we have good information to understand and plan for the future."
The report revealed plans for 465 hectares of new cherry plantings in the next four-five years (a 56% increase on current plantings), with feasibility studies under way to develop a further 495 hectares of cherries. There will be new grape plantings of 284 hectares, which is a 14% increase and will bring the total Central Otago vineyard estate to 2275 hectares.
The authors reported optimism among growers but noted continued growth for these sectors was "contingent on solving the labour challenges".
The peak horticulture harvest period will see an increase in labour demand of 1186 workers over the next five years, with predicted viticulture increases for the same period of 123 workers at harvest.
Accommodation provision is a big issue to resolve, with the report predicted an increase in demand for accommodation of 6198 beds to cater for peak harvest demand by 2021/22 for both sectors. While there is a predicted increase in bed and camping capacity supply of 1615, there is still a forecast shortfall of 2298 beds.
Mr Jeffery said the key thing now was to take the report's data and recommendations and use them to guide action that will bring solutions. This would take a strong concerted effort by growers, stakeholder groups and local and central government, supported by the governance group.
The 2018 report includes 13 recommendations to be driven at a strategic, workplace, training and community level. These include the governance group chair highlighting with officials the need for raising the Regional Seasonal Employment (RSE) cap; improving processing capacity over the Christmas break; and increasing promotion of horticulture and viticulture work opportunities to holiday visa holders. Exploring options for engaging underutilised workers in the community such as older people and parents with young children and allowing more flexible work conditions is another recommendation.
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said he was struck by the importance of RSE workers and backpackers for our seasonal labour supply.
"I endorse the report's recommendation that we need, as a community, to acknowledge the ongoing value of these groups to our region. Finding ways to celebrate their contribution, making sure we stand out as a great destination in a competitive seasonal labour market and get known as a welcoming and vibrant community, are ways every one of us can help our district prosper."
The survey was funded jointly by the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust, Central Otago Winegrowers Association, Seasonal Solutions Cooperative Ltd, Immigration New Zealand and Central Otago District Council.
Download and read the Central Otago Labour Market Survey: Horticulture and Viticulture, August 2018 (PDF, 1MB)
Check out some of the top statistics from the report in this Labour Market Survey Infographic.