Challenges as Marlborough wine industry booms


Wine production in Marlborough is tipped to increase by 25 percent over the next five years so industry leaders are meeting to today to plan for the future.

The movers and shakers of the Marlborough wine industry are holding a meeting today to discuss the future of one of the country's biggest exports.

Results from the recent Marlborough Labour Market Survey, a joint initiative by Wine Marlborough, New Zealand Winegrowers and Marlborough District Council, show the industry is rapidly expanding.

Members of the industry are so optimistic, they are planning for an increase in productive vineyards by almost 25 percent over the next four years.

The current production area is 23,619 hectares, which is predicted to expand to 29,270 hectares, an increase of 24 percent.

With more vineyards comes more jobs, and those positions can prove particularly difficult to fill.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens says roughly 2000 new jobs will be created.

"Vineyards and contractors indicate they will need an additional 189 permanent workers, 600 winter Regional Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE) workers and 306 summer RSE workers by 2019/20… In addition the survey indicates there will be an increase in demand for another 884 casuals across the year."

And with more people come more houses - another 189 - one for each new permanent staff member expected, which will increase demand across the building sector.

"More purpose-built accommodation facilities are needed for permanent, casual and RSE workers."

Mr Pickens says because employers have an obligation to employ Kiwis first, the Marlborough wine industry needs to find ways to attract people to the area. He believes New Zealanders don't know about the varied options available.

"There are opportunities at many different levels, not just picking vines but marketing roles, finance, admin, hospitality and even electricians - almost every sector."

Mr Pickens says they could easily find 2000 workers with the RSE scheme, but he knows there are people across the country who are able to fill those roles.

The 2015 New Zealand Winegrowers Report showed the industry is going from strength-to-strength, moving to the country's sixth largest export good by value.

The optimism comes on the back of continual growth of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc in export markets such as North America and Asia.

Currently this one variety has an export value of $1.2 billion for Marlborough. Sauvignon Blanc makes up for 66 percent of New Zealand's overall wine export.

Today's meeting will welcome growers, the Marlborough District Council, policy makers, developers, migrant groups, the Ministry of Social Development, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and more.

"One of the outcomes we are looking for today is exactly what steps we need to take next."

Mr Pickens says the group will be aiming to "front foot the growth curve" by working together.

"Getting individuals to think of their own needs but also collaborations across the industry, which we are very good at doing."

For anyone thinking of taking up an opportunity among the vineyards of Marlborough, Marcus Pickens has this message for you.

"It's an amazing place to live, there is a really vibrant industry here. It sort of flies under the radar but there are so many opportunities that we can see coming."