Labour Market Report highlights steady growth and changing workforce
A new report on labour issues facing Central Otago's horticulture and viticulture sectors indicates slowing growth, big increases in grower-supplied accommodation, and dramatic workforce changes from closed borders.
The report is based on surveys and interviews with horticulture and viticulture growers during August and September this year. Local company Thrive Consulting, that specialises in horticulture consultancy services, conducted the research and authored the report.
Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group Chair Stephen Jeffery said the level of response to the survey when compared to planted hectares shows good representation and gives "a high level of confidence" in the data.
"It's important to both industry and the wider community to have an overview of projected growth and the changing labour market," Mr Jeffery said. "The increased demand and changed labour market are already starting to show this summer with staff shortages. Already there are roles available for immediate start that haven’t been filled and demand for staff this summer is yet to reach its peak. Available roles are advertised on www.picknz.co.nz.
"It's encouraging to see previous growth in plantings being supported with increased accommodation provision and more permanent roles in the industry. Central Otago's rural economy is a crucial part of our district and it’s vital that we have a good understanding of it and plan for the future."
The report revealed plans for 341 hectares of new horticulture plantings in the next four-five years which represents a 15% increase in the area planted. In addition, there will be 261 hectares of new grape plantings, a 13% increase. The benefits of previous plantings were starting to show with 114 more staff in permanent roles since 2018.
The author reported a lower level of optimism among growers due to the COVID-19 labour constraints they had experienced last season and were facing again. This lower level of optimism showed through in a slower rate of planned plantings compared to the last four years.
The peak horticulture harvest period will see an increase in labour demand of 1,286 workers by 2025/26, with predicted viticulture increases for the same period of 241 workers at harvest.
Grower-provided accommodation is one of the big improvements shown with the supply of beds and camping capacity increasing 82% over the last four years. The supply of accommodation is predicted to increase into the future, further closing the gap between accommodation supply and workforce beds.
Mr Jeffery said the key thing now is 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 2021 reports recommendations include the governance group chair highlighting with officials the need for raising the Recognised Seasonal Employment (RSE) cap; the provision of staff wellbeing workshops, advocating for continued government investment in training, and working with MSD to provide bespoke training programmes. The report acknowledges the important role that the Seasonal Labour Coordinator and the Career Progression Manager roles play and recommends they are continued.
The survey was funded jointly by the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Charitable Trust, Central Otago Winegrowers Association, Seasonal Solutions Cooperative Ltd, Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Primary Industries and Central Otago District Council.