Van­u­atu work­ers ‘trea­sured’


Ten years ago or­chardists and wine grow­ers were los­ing money fast as fruit was left to rot, due to a lack of sea­sonal work­ers.

Fast for­ward to 2016, and Sea­sonal So­lu­tions Co­op­er­a­tive Ltd and the Van­u­atu Gov­ern­ment has that prob­lem solved.

A gath­er­ing at The Pack­ing Shed in Earn­scle­ugh on Fri­day cel­e­brated 10 years of the co­op­er­a­tive.

Com­ing to Cen­tral Otago for seven-month stints for the past 10 years un­der the Recog­nised Sea­sonal Em­ployer (RSE) scheme had been tough for Van­u­atu man Peter Bum­seng, but well worth it.

He was one of a hand­ful left of the orig­i­nal 45 who came in the sum­mer of 2006-07.

‘‘To me it’s a big priv­i­lege to come here,’’ Bum­seng said.

‘‘It has [made] a big im­pact to our fam­i­lies, to our com­mu­ni­ties and to our na­tion as well.

‘‘I have seen New Zealand as just a next door neigh­bour. Thank you for your kind­ness. Thank you for your help.’’

Sea­sonal So­lu­tions was set up to ease sea­sonal labour short­ages in the Cen­tral Otago fruit and wine in­dus­tries and now boasts a $24 mil­lion an­nual turnover ben­e­fit­ing both coun­tries. Un­der the scheme, most of the money made by Van­u­atu work­ers is sent home to help with school­ing, build­ing and in­fra­struc­ture. Work­ers were earn­ing $17 or $18 an hour, with the win­ter wage ris­ing to $19.

Sea­sonal So­lu­tions Co­op­er­a­tive Ltd chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer He­len Axby said it was ‘‘ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal’’ to have Van­u­atu work­ers - now num­ber­ing about 1400 - come into Cen­tral Otago, Marl­bor­ough and South Can­ter­bury.

‘‘I think most of our grow­ers would be be­side them­selves if they thought they were go­ing to lose this.’’

Co­op­er­a­tive chair­man Basil Good­man paid trib­ute to the founders, es­pe­cially Min­istry of So­cial De­vel­op­ment south­ern re­gional com­mis­sioner John Allen.

Allen said: ’’I re­gard the estab­lish­ment of Sea­sonal So­lu­tions as the big­gest thing ... I have been a part of in the 16 years I have been re­gional com­mis­sioner.

‘‘A lot of work was done, a huge amount of in­no­va­tion, and a lot of risk.’’

Cen­tral Otago Mayor Tim Cado­gan was grate­ful for what the Van­u­atu peo­ple had added to the com­mu­nity.

‘‘These are good peo­ple. These are peo­ple we re­ally want to trea­sure in our com­mu­nity.’’

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