Central Otago Labour Market Surveys

Two reports were released in 2015 on the Central Otago labour market.

Horticulture and Viticulture

The first covers the horticulture and viticulture sectors and 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.

Recommendations in the report include: reviewing training needs; exploring housing options; running workshops on industry best practice; and greater promotion of Central Otago as a seasonal work destination. 

Five Growth Sectors

The second report scopes labour issues in five sectors of the Central Otago economy - construction, irrigation, transport, hospitality and agriculture, which are on course for strong growth over the next five years.

“This growth will be driven by intensification of farming, irrigation development, commercial and residential building confidence, growing numbers of international and domestic visitors and growing consumer confidence,” said Chair of the Central Otago Labour Market Governance Group John Lane.

The report was produced after surveying a small number of key employers in five industries – construction, irrigation, transport, hospitality and agriculture – to gain insight into labour market issues in those industries.  

“All five sectors are optimistic and buoyant with an expectation that this will continue in the short and medium term.  Rural growth is in part dependent on future dairy prices and access to reliable sources of water for irrigation,” said Mr Lane.

“The survey also indicates that the impact of poor data communications is being felt in both Alexandra and Cromwell highlighting the need for current UFB and Rural Broadband enhancement projects of the Central Otago District Council,” he said.

While the businesses surveyed generally reported high rates of staff loyalty and retention, all were concerned about their ability to recruit skilled workers.  With strong growth predicted it is unsurprising that there will be increased demand for workers across the five industries surveyed, accentuating the skill shortages already identified.

“Central Otago businesses understand the importance of up-skilling and investing in training of staff,” Mr Lane said.  Although he noted that some businesses think there is room for training providers to work more closely with them on the placement of graduates into work.

In particular the transport and agricultural businesses remarked they would welcome more young people entering their industries. The report suggests this could be encouraged by businesses building better links with schools and the reintroduction of work experience schemes and training cadet schemes.

“Just as we found with our survey of the horticulture and viticulture sectors, some employers surveyed for this report felt there was a shortage in Central Otago of long term rental accommodation, which was impacting on the availability of workers and the ability of firms to recruit,” said Mr Lane.  

The governance group will use the information from both this and the earlier Horticulture and Viticulture 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.  

The Central Otago Labour Market Survey reports were commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development and the Central Otago District Council, and were conducted by local business consultants Tara Druce and Martin Anderson.

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

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