COWAS
Harvest Time in Central this year will mean ‘all hands on deck’. Photo Supplied

With a stellar season for grapes, great projected yields and very healthy-looking fruit, it is now critical that the fruit pickers stay in our region for the harvest in March/April.

This is the view of Jake Tipler, General Manager of Central Otago Winegrowers Association (COWA).  

With this in mind, COWA has engaged the services of Will Nelson from Tourism Central Otago to create a video ‘Pick Pinot Central’, aimed at highlighting job opportunities over harvest.

The video will be promoted through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, NZ Wine, Summerfruit and other targeted Facebook groups, and digital platforms.

They are also currently working with Tracey Mansfield, Seasonal Labour Coordinator, to create posters to be distributed to local orchards to encourage workers to stay in Central Otago for the grape harvest.

The South Island Universities will also be targeted to attract students here during their holidays which run from 8 to 29 April.

Jake says, “With labour supply being short, we are concerned that Omicron could wreak havoc during the harvest time – especially if we have many people self-isolating at once.”

The gaining of ‘critical service’ classification, and the relaxation of self-isolation rules for those returning negative daily RATS have now made it significantly more likely that harvest will be able to proceed.

If locals are keen to help this vital industry, they could perhaps offer a room in their house for a seasonal worker to stay in over harvest.

“That would probably be the most helpful,” says Jake.

Offering to help smaller producers if you can only work for a short time, or short hours, would also be useful.

If you are able to offer your labour, Jake suggests that you look on PickNZ website, or apply directly to the wineries.

Wherever possible, wineries are splitting their workforce into two teams to reduce the risk of loosing everyone to Covid at once. 

This is more difficult for smaller operators – they are planning to ‘quarantine’ themselves over harvest to avoid getting sick.

In a worst-case scenario, neighbours and contractors are ready to step up and help where they can.

In this difficult year, Jake believes that, with community support, everyone will have a way to get their grapes off the vines and into tanks.