Compared to the national average, a large proportion of the adult population (15 years plus) of Central Otago is in full or part time employment.

(Source: Census)

Throughout 2011 there were generally less than 150 people registered as unemployed in Central Otago, an unemployment rate of about 3%. This is at a time when national unemployment is in the order of 6.5%.
Unemployment in Central Otago has been lower than the national level for a number of years. While this highlights that there are many opportunities for people to work there are also a number of implications for new or expanding businesses in Central Otago:

There may be a shortage of skilled or experienced labour to fill new roles. This is definitely so in the skilled trades area.
Although the mean income is less than the national average, a large spread of the adult population will have some disposable income

Central Otago Employment Percentage

Partnership the way forward

A new report on labour issues facing the horticulture and viticulture industries in Central Otago indicates a bright future, if certain hurdles can be overcome.

"The Central Otago Labour Market Survey is the clearest and most in-depth picture we have to date of workforce issues for these industries," said John Lane, Chair of the Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group.

The report's development involved both surveying and interviewing horticulture and viticulture growers, and gaining their industry insights on what's working well and what areas have room for improvement. 

"There are lots of positives in the report, including the fact both the horticulture and viticulture industries in Central are on track for moderate to strong growth over the next 10 years, with cherry plantings predicted to increase by 34% over the next five years," Mr Lane said.

"What's very clear from the growers' responses is that they're keen to work in partnership with industry, local and central government to ensure their industries realise their full potential."

While the future looks bright for growers, the report identifies key areas that need to be addressed to cope with a growth in crops and production.  

The report highlights a lack of suitably trained staff and the limited availability of appropriate accommodation as areas that could potentially impact on productivity in the region.

It notes that while New Zealanders and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers are the mainstay of both industries, there is a dependence on backpackers as a source of labour at peak times that is a key fragility in the market.  

Commenting on the dependence on backpackers John Allen, Regional Commissioner for the Ministry of Social Development, said "finding work for job-seeking New Zealanders is a priority, especially in an area like Central Otago which is rich with seasonal work opportunities". 

"But we need to work out how we can ensure that New Zealanders who are looking for work have the right training to access jobs in these industries. Based on the findings of this report we look forward to working more closely with these two industries to understand how we can give jobseekers the right preparation to do these jobs." 

Accommodation provision is one of the biggest issues to resolve, with the report predicting labour demand to grow with an additional 600 beds required by 2018/19. 

"The way forward will require employers and the industry to work closely with local and central government to identify solutions," said Mr Lane.

The governance group would use the information from the report to assist in the development of a Central Otago labour market plan to help the district prepare for future economic growth, Mr Lane said 

Recommendations within the report that an action plan will address include: reviewing training needs; exploring housing options; running workshops on industry best practice; and greater promotion of Central Otago as a seasonal work destination. 

The Central Otago Labour Market Survey report was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development​ and the Central Otago District Council, and was prepared by local business consultants Tara Druce and Martin Anderson.  A second survey will start shortly, focusing on other key growth industries in Central Otago. 

•Download and read the Central Otago Labour Market Survey (Horticulture & Viticulture) June 2015 .pdf

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