Call for all hands to the harvest pump

Dylan Rushbrook
Dylan Rushbrook
Central Otago residents are being asked to muck in or be more hospitable than usual in a bid to make up some of the seasonal worker shortfall.

Anyone with spare time or a spare room is the target of a campaign launched by the Central Otago Recovery Response group.

Covid Recovery manager Dylan Rush- brook said the "Spare Time, Spare Room" campaign was one of the group’s first initiatives and targeted locals, friends and family as a solution to the predicted seasonal labour shortage.

At peak demand in December, Central Otago needed about 5000 seasonal workers to assist in the horticulture and viticulture sectors, he said. These workers were usually sourced through the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, backpackers and, to a lesser extent, local youth.

Due to Covid-19, the border remained closed and the Government had indicated it was unlikely RSE workers would be allowed into the country.

"We are hoping locals who may be looking for work, or who may be working reduced hours, part-time, or even our many fit and able retirees, will consider filling that spare time by filling a vacancy on a local orchard or vineyard."

Mr Rushbrook said the short-term nature of the work meant New Zealanders were unlikely to move permanently. There was a shortage of accommodation, and looking closer to home was key.

"If spare time isn’t something you have, then we’re encouraging our community to think about offering up a spare room to friends or family for the summer who want to come and lend a hand."

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said he planned to work in an orchard while the council closed over summer, "because this is really an all-hands-to-the-pump situation for our community".

"Lockdown showed our resilience and it is again time for us to come together to stare down a problem that is going to affect us all.

"If we don’t get the fruit off the trees and vines, we will see a huge amount of money lost to our economy; something none of us can afford in these times."

The flow-on effects could result in job losses and shops and businesses closing, he said.

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