Monday, April 22, 2024

Wine region needs help

Neal Wallace
The country’s largest wine-producing region is short of at least 1000 pruners this winter.
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Wine Marlborough manager Marcus Pickens says in a normal year they require 3000 pruners but this year due to restrictions on Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) numbers, they are at least 1000 short.

Pickens says mechanisation dominates grape harvesting in Marlborough, but experience and the need for visual assessment of canes for pruning, needs the human eye and will remain labour intensive.

Most pruners are predominantly RSE workers and due to covid-19 restrictions, growers have this winter been unable to access sufficient numbers.

Some RSE pruners working this year have been stranded here for two years, unable to return home and while that has taken a personal toll, Pickens says growers are grateful to have them.

Pickens says RSE workers have underpinned the growth of grape growing and wine making, assisting Marlborough vineyards to exceed 10,000ha.

“We couldn’t have done it without them because we have a small town in Blenheim that is remote and the task is very physical,” Pickens said.

While they employ New Zealanders, he says the work is perceived as a seasonal summer job and without a large urban centre from which to source people, the industry has to rely on RSE workers.

Recruiting unemployed from elsewhere in the country to move to Blenheim is fraught with potential difficulty.

“It is very challenging to take people away from their families,” he said.

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