Peter Bumseng, from Port Vila in Vanuatu, spends New
Zealand's warmer months working in Central Otago vineyards.
Photo by Mark Price.
Each spring since 2007, Peter Bumseng (39) has said
goodbye to his wife and three children in Port Vila, Vanuatu,
and headed off to work - helping to grow grapes in Central
And each autumn when he heads home, he takes some cash to
help pay for his children's education and some solar panels
so Vanuatan children have light to read by at night.
Mr Bumseng is one of 240 migrant workers from Vanuatu who
come to Central Otago each year - about 13% of Central's
seasonal labour force.
He says he likes the region's fruit and is happy with his
accommodation and pay, but he is less enthusiastic about the
weather. Even on a warm summer's day, Vanuatans wrap up.
''Back home it's hot but not too dry. It's humid. The weather
has been a big change for us, especially when we are
approaching the winter here. It's just a bit cold for us.''
And food-wise, he says, they miss the yams and taro. Mr
Bumseng has lived in Port Vila (population 44,000) for many
years but is originally from Vanuatu's fifth-largest island,
Ambrym, an active volcano with a population of 8000.
He says the main crops there are kava, coconuts, taro, yams,
bananas, mangos, pawpaw, grapefruit and vegetables, and some
table grapes are being grown now, as well.
Mr Bumseng is one of 40 Ambrym men working in Central Otago,
many of them regulars.
He says they all know that if they want to continue coming to
New Zealand, they must be disciplined, particularly when it
comes to alcohol.
''Alcohol has been one of the issues with the Vanuatan people
working here because some of them can't control the alcohol.
''It's up to the boys, but if you are coming, you must be
able to behave yourself.''
That's not to say some of them do not enjoy sampling the
vintage in moderation.
Since 2007, University of Otago anthropologist Rochelle-lee
Bailey has been studying a group of 22 Vanuatans here under
the ''recognised seasonal employment'' scheme and has also
spent time on Ambrym, where most residents live a subsistence
life, with few chances to earn cash.
After a season in Central Otago, the workers can return home
with more than $10,000 and Ms Bailey says the ''No1 goal'' is
to pay for their children's education.
''That wouldn't happen without this opportunity, they have
Mr Bumseng says Vanuatans also take home tools, such as
chainsaws, they can use to set up their own businesses.
Ms Bailey says the men are permitted to work only six days a
week but would like to work seven.
''They want to work the big hours to earn the big money.''
Ms Bailey says her group takes a break from viticulture work
to help pick cherries around Christmas and is now regarded as
''part of the landscape'' in Central Otago.