Thousands of workers have a home in Otago
A multi-lot accommodation block for workers had not stalled, says Cromwell Community Board chairman Neil Gillespie.
“Revisions to the design had been necessary and as soon as these are finalised consents would be underway,” he said.
Last March the Central Otago District Council (CODC) sold 7ha of land near Cromwell for the proposed multilot accommodation development, with the Cromwell Community Board insisting that any sale of that land had to be appropriate for the town.
One condition of the sale agreement was that reasonable progress must be made on building the accommodation within 18 months and also there should be a minimum of 400 beds.
Central Otago’s escalating cherry, pipfruit and grape export earners need seasonal workers by the thousands who in turn need somewhere to live for the duration of the three sector harvests. The lack of suitable housing has been a critical issue for the past few seasons.
When the sale to an experienced development group was agreed to by the CODC, the proposed 700-bed housing complex was seen as a major step towards alleviating the district’s worker accommodation woes.
However, in mid-September Mr Gillespie said that the project would not be completed in time for the coming 2017-2018 harvests. Providing accommodation comes in all sizes, from freedom camping, to camping sites on some orchards, hostels, up-to-date worker accommodation and even an historic hotel.
Many orchardists provide worker accommodation on their properties and at Cromwell Simon and Trudy Webb added units for up to 15 casual staff last year.
Further down in the valley at Roxburgh a “grand old lady” the Commercial Hotel in Scotland Street, provides accommodation for up to100 seasonal workers and backpackers. It is no longer a hotel but an accommodation complex.
The substantial red brick building, now known as the Commercial Hotel Backpackers, is 115 years old and was a tavern before it was purchased by John and Pat Kerr 18 years ago.
Under their ownership the historic building has been updated.
“We’ve recently installed a double set of wi-fi because it’s most important these days with phones and tablets,” John said.
The 2017-2018 season looks on track, according to Simon Webb who said pollination of trees this season had been spot on.
There have been no major frosts although when the apricots were in blossom they did get a “tickle up” from a frost, but he did not frost-fight then or since.
The trees were well set up for the coming harvest, and when asked about enquiries for workers, his reply was: “There’s bucket loads of workers out there looking for a job.”
The Webbs have just finished planting 10ha in nectarines and peaches.
Hundreds of workers will be needed for the coming season, from thinning through to picking and with further accommodation provided throughout the district, the area is sitting pretty for another successful harvest.
JR Webb & Sons orchard accommodation on the family property near Cromwell, with peach blossom on the left.