Wednesday November 12, 2014
Along with our regular winemaking team (there’s nothing regular about them, really) at Mt. Beautiful, we are lucky enough to have the help of an amazing crew of seasonal workers, who join us in November and again in May to help us with all things viticulture, including harvesting, pruning, bud rubbing, shoot and crop thinning and more. They are hardworking, efficient and happy people and they do an excellent job.
This crew of ten to twelve hardworking individuals joins us from the island chain of Vanuatu. They are allowed into New Zealand under a special program designed to provide a labour force for viticulture and horticulture. The maximum allowable stay is seven months, so we hire the crew twice a year for a few months at a time. During those times, we provide housing for the crew with TV, internet access and cable, which many of them don’t have at home. They are required to pay nominal rent and reimburse us for their airfare during the course of their stay.
Ideally, we get the same individuals on the crew each year, because they are familiar with our vineyard and requirements for top quality work. Getting the same crew also affords us the luxury of not needing to train new people every year.
We use a company called Hortus in Blenheim to obtain our crew and their supervisor, who manages the crew and looks after for their cultural needs. They are religious people and attend the local church on Sundays, which is a big boost for the Cheviot congregation.
Because we don’t need the crew full-time, they often work in other vineyards and wineries around Waipara, so, by default, we are assisting with the needs of other local wineries.
Most of the work is paid by piece rate, so the more the crew achieves, the more money they all earn. Most of them return home with very healthy bank accounts, sometimes the equivalent of three years wages in the islands. They also bring back items that are hard to find at home, such as cell phones, chainsaws, shovels, solar panels, building materials, etc.
This is a win-win situation for us and for the crew and we are very grateful to have them as part of our team. This is the second full season that we have used the crew and are looking forward to many more seasons with them.