Work aplenty for blueberry pickers

A Southland blueberry orchard manager hopes to buck the trend and get Kiwis on board to pick this season’s harvest.

Despite New Zealanders historically "excluding" themselves from such roles, Blueberry Country general manager Simon Bardon needs 150 to sign up, filling jobs previously done by backpackers or those on short-term visas.

With borders closed, Mr Bardon fears a worker shortage like those in Central Otago and across the country.

Blueberry Country general manager Simon Bardon is hoping to get about 150 pickers for its busy...
Blueberry Country general manager Simon Bardon is hoping to get about 150 pickers for its busy season. PHOTO: LUISA GIRAO

Regional development agency Great South has also become involved in the effort and will be promoting an information day on Saturday at the Otautau farm.

Mr Bardon said the appetite for work among locals was strong.

When he advertised for four casual positions to help the permanent staff during the winter with pruning and planting, he was overwhelmed with the response.

In just a few hours he had more than 40 applications.

"The ad went live at 11.15am but by 2pm I was trying to shut it down. Everybody was quite excited because no-one was advertising in the middle of winter.

"That was very unusual for us."

While he said foreign workers had previously been the backbone of the seasonal workforce, he believed this season was a "great opportunity" to focus on employing locals.

"The truth is we’ve always wanted locals.

"We want locals that will come back each season and have this accumulated knowledge.

"This has certainly been an opportunity for us to get the message across — we are hiring whoever wants to work for us.

"It doesn’t matter if they are local or travellers, there is work here."

Mr Bardon said the job would be a great opportunity for young people or those who had just finished their studies, as picking blueberries was a demanding job.

"The reality is, for a good picker who has a good focus and strength ... they’re going to earn some good money."

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