Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager border and visa operations Nicola Hogg. Photo: Supplied.

Crisis looms for $2b wine industry

A horticultural disaster is looming as a lack of vital workers threatens the region’s $2billion wine industry.

Imported workers under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme are in short supply, with less than half of the potential 14,400 workers currently in the country.

And one employer is warning the situation will only get worse.

Seasonal Solutions chief executive Helen Axby says the ideal solution would be a travel bubble with Vanuatu.

“There’s been a shortage of labour and there’s going to be a shortage of labour.

“A lot of places where RSE staff come from are Covid free,” Helen says.

RSE workers who are currently outside of New Zealand are not allowed in until Covid border restrictions are lifted.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) general manager border and visa operations Nicola Hogg says there are about 1700 RSE workers in Marlborough, with the number is likely to change as workers move around the country.

But Helen says that number will drop.

“For our RSE staff we made the decision to charter an aircraft two weeks ago – that took 340-odd home.

“Not because we don’t need them for work – but we feared for their mental health.

“They’ve been stranded here.”

About 3000 workers are needed to complete the harvest and pruning – and there are not enough Kiwis to fill the shortfall.

“One RSE worker is worth one and a half other workers, at least,” Helen says.

“Some of them have eight or nine years experience.

“They think it’s going to be a little easier to recruit Kiwis, but there won’t be enough.”

In August, the government extended RSE visas by six months for those still in New Zealand and unable to return home.

“This allows RSE workers with visa expiry dates between 18 August and 31 December 2020 to stay and work in New Zealand,” Nicola says.

“This visa extension gives approximately 6,700 RSE workers still in New Zealand, and their employers, more certainty about worker availability for the coming season.”

She says the RSE worker cap of 14,400 will not be increased this year as planned due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last month the government also announced that around 11,000 Working Holiday Scheme visa holders who are in New Zealand, with visas expiring between November 2020 and March 2021, will be automatically granted Supplementary Seasonal Employment (SSE) visas.

“This allows them to work until 30 June 2021 in horticulture and viticulture seasonal roles where there are not enough New Zealanders available to do the work,” Nicola says.

“Immigration New Zealand (INZ) recognises the impact that COVID-19 continues to have on businesses and migrants and their loved ones.”

Helen says the critical issue will come next winter.

“This is when staff demand is at its height.

“It will become a critical issue.”

She says the industry won’t have the luxury to utilise staff stuck in New Zealand come next pruning season.

“Next year’s pruning will come up us much sooner than we expect.”

Helen says in a perfect world, the government would recognise Covid-free countries.

“These guys [RSE workers] are very experienced in Covid-19 because they have lived and worked through a level 4 lockdown,” she says.

“They’ve travelled between regions with all the special permissions.

“On returning home, they’ve done a 14-day quarantine.

“They have a lot of experience looking after themselves and remaining Covid-free.

“A bubble with Vanuatu would be the ideal situation.”

Aaron and Isaac Piper from Cloudy Bay Clams are helping raise money for charity with a giant paella. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

All in good taste for charity

Charity begins at home for local businesses keen to help cook up a storm for charity.

Cloudy Bay Clams will be creating a massive paella to sell at Bayley’s Friday Night Feast.

All proceeds from food sold from their stall on the night will be donated to Kids Can and the Life Education Trust.

When owners and operators Isaac and Kerry Piper put word out about what they were doing, a bevy of businesses quickly jumped on board to help.

The response has been humbling, Isaac says.

“This is about good people coming together as a collective under the Cloudy Bay Clams umbrella and giving back to the local community.

“There’s a lot going on in the world right now and we want to focus on the community, do something good.”

The giant paella will use about 40kg of clams and be created by Christchurch restaurant owner and chef Javier Garcia, who is donating his time and skills for free.

Owner of the Curator’s House, he has also lent the huge dish on which the traditional Spanish dish will be cooked.

Cloudy Bay Wines are kindly sponsoring Jack’s Raw Bar, says business development manager Aaron Piper who will be at the event to help shuck clams.

Bayley’s Friday Night gets underway this Friday in Blenheim town centre from 3.30pm until 8.30pm.

The popular family-friendly event will feature a range of local businesses and chefs as well as live music.

“Anybody Cloudy Bay Clans reached to and asked if they wanted to be involved said ‘Totally. What can we do to help?’”

“The response has been humbling,” Aaron says.

“What’s really exciting is that everyone wants to be involved.

‘It’s a great community here and the support has been amazing.

Cloudy Bay Clams and Jack’s Raw Bar will be set up in the forum on the night.

One hundred percent of all money made on the night will go to charity.

Businesses who have contributed with time, expertise and ingredients are:

  • Curators House
  • Boom Town Beer
  • Origin South
  • Boom Town Chef
  • Karaka Cuisine
  • Marlborough Tour Company
  • Imagine Signs
  • Saffron Marlborough
  • Mills Bay Mussels
  • Chateau Marlborough
  • Imagine Signs
  • Cloudy Bay Wines
  • Ora King Salmon
Fire services rushed to put out the fire at the Forum in February this year. Photo: Matt Brown.

Tea towels likely cause in Forum fire

Tumble-dried tea towels are being blamed as the most likely cause of a blaze which caused about $1.5 million dollars of damage.

Official investigations into the Forum fire in Blenheim have revealed the hot tea towels likely sparked the fire.

The inner-city fire in February this year caused disruption, damage and heartache for several local business and left a hefty bill for building owners.

Building owner Toni Gillan says the consequences of the fire have been devastating.

She says the building is still being remediated but in the meantime CBD Café owners, who declined to comment, had moved out.

There were two fire investigations as well as an electrical expert brought in from Wellington to determine the cause of the fire, Toni says.

But there was no definitive cause found.

Emergency services were called to the CBD Café in February this year.

Witnesses at the scene at the time described billowing, black smoke coming from the popular eatery.

The café and other businesses were closed at the time and no one was hurt.

The dozen tenants at the central development went without power for about a month – some much longer.

Many businesses – like the popular Dolce restaurant, having to shut their doors until services were restored.

The Marlborough Cancer Society found new premises and aren’t likely to return, Toni says.

Fire & Emergency New Zealand specialist fire investigator Craig Piner says insurance specialists believed the tea towels self-ignited.

“They believe that these towels didn’t spend long enough in the dryer’s cool cycle before being placed in a store room, self-heating and starting the fire,” Craig says.

“They therefore believe that the fire cause was accidental self-ignition of cleaning towels.”

Craig says neither the insurance company or Fire & Emergency found evidence to suggest that it was a deliberately lit fire and found nothing suspicious surrounding the cause.

“This is a good example of materials self-igniting after washing and drying.

“We remind people who use clothes driers to ensure that the full cool down cycle is completed before removing clothes from the drier.

“This allows clothes etc the opportunity to cool sufficiently and prevents this sort of fire occurring.”

Several restaurants have gone up in flames from the spontaneous ignition of oil-contaminated tea towels.

It took more than a dozen fire appliances to extinguish a blaze in a Hamilton restaurant, in 2016, caused by tea towels that had been pulled out of a dryer and left in a basket in the rear of the restaurant.

A fire at West Coast school, in 2015, was caused by rags and tea towels in a clothes dryer combusting about 20 minutes after the dryer switched off.

CBD Café owners declined to comment.

Rhys Hall from Indevin. Photo: Supplied.

Grape expectations

Rhys Hall from Indevin will be pitting his wits against five other finalists next month competing for the coveted NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year title.

The talented finalist I hoping to take out the top spot at the milestone event, which will also mark the competition’s 15th anniversary.

Since 2006 the initiative has helped support passionate, young viticulturists grow, reach their goals and move into leadership roles within the wine industry.

Leadership & Communities Manager at NZ Winegrowers Nicky Grandorge is welcoming a chance for the industry to celebrate after a tumultuous few months.

This year’s National Final is being held in conjunction with the celebration so the fifteenth winner -The Corteva NZ Young Viticulturist of the Year 2020 – will be announced at the dinner.

“In this challenging year, it is fantastic that we have made it through our six regional finals and are able to hold the National Final.

“This, along with reaching the fifteen-year milestone, is certainly something to celebrate and a wonderful opportunity to bring our passionate, big thinking winners together, many of whom are now senior leaders in our industry.” Nicky says.

The celebrations take place on 8 October in Martinborough.

The iconic festival attracts wine makers from across the region. File photo.

Wine and food fest falls foul of Covid fears

Marlborough Wine & Food Festival has been cancelled for the first time in its 36-year history.

Festival bosses have today announced the iconic festival will not go ahead as planned to help protect the 2021 harvest from the threat of Covid-19.

Marlborough Winegrowers Board Chair Tom Trolove says the decision has been a difficult one.

“It’s been a really tough decision, and we realise this will impact businesses in our community.

“But the board was clear that in these unprecedented times, it had to prioritise the safety of the harvest.

“The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival celebrates our industry on the cusp of our harvest, and that’s a risk,” he says.

A report from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research found that the wine industry made up 19 per cent of Marlborough’s GDP.

The industry employs 4,850 people in Marlborough and could not be put at risk Tom says.

“This industry is absolutely vital to Marlborough’s economic health.

“So, no matter how much we love our iconic wine festival, with all its camaraderie and celebration, we cannot let it jeopardise our industry, or indeed our community.”

“Deciding early to cancel the festival was important for event partners, festival organiser Wine Marlborough, and also the event audience, many of whom travel from other parts of the country to attend,” he says.

Around 8000 people celebrate at the annual festival each year at Brancott Estate.

But worries about Covid-19 means organisers have had to pull the plug.

“The past month has been a reminder that the world is in a time of uncertainty, and New Zealand’s situation can change at any time.

“What is certain to us is that we have to do all we can to protect the health of our people, and the economic lifeblood of this region,” Tom says.

Marlborough’s wine industry makes up 77.7 per cent of the national grape harvest, and accounts for at least 80 per cent of all exports, which are currently worth $1.923 billion a year.

General admission tickets were due to go on sale on October 1, which also made an early decision important.

“It may not be a good time for 8000 people to gather on a vineyard site to celebrate together with over 40 wineries, but it’s a fantastic time to visit Marlborough’s cellar doors and get an extraordinary insight into what makes this region’s wines amazing,” Tom says.

Super Early Bird ticket holders will be offered a 100 per cent refund.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the cancellation would be a blow to Marlborough’s events calendar,

“But there’s no doubt that the wine industry’s main objective is to harvest its grapes in optimal condition and make the wine that helps put Marlborough on the global stage”.

Festival Committee Chair Tracy Johnston says the committee was disappointed the event was not going ahead but believed it is the right decision.

“The Marlborough Wine & Food Festival will return as a proud and iconic event for Marlborough when it can be delivered without putting our industry and community at risk.”

Wine Marlborough General Manager Marcus Pickens says the committee and organising team put their heart and soul into the event every year.

“It’s gutting that we can’t do that for February 2021, but we fully support the board’s decision.”

“Wine Marlborough’s top priority is protecting the reputation of our extraordinary wine region, and right now that means doing all we can to help reduce the risk of holding a large event like this before harvest.”

Mark Lovelock was the overall winner. Photo: Supplied.

Trio build bright future in construction

A trio of talented apprentices have taken out three top spots in a prestigious competition.

The Registered Master Builders Apprentice of the Year, in partnership with CARTERS, is the leading apprentice competition for the building and construction sector.

And at a regional awards ceremony in Renwick on Friday night, three Marlborough carpentry apprentices won first second and third place at the Upper South Island regional competition.

Cameron Palmer-McGruer impressed judges to be awarded second place. Photo: Supplied.
Cameron Palmer-McGruer impressed judges to be awarded second place. Photo: Supplied.

Mark Lovelock of Timbercraft Construction, Cameron Palmer-McGruer from Brent Woodward Builder and Daniel Small from Scott Construction Marlborough Limited impressed judges.

At the Upper South Island regional competition the apprentices were judged on a two-hour practical challenge, and their initial entry submission.

The top 10 in the region progressed to an interview with the judging panel, which was followed by an onsite visit where contestants discussed their project.

Making their selection, judges praised Mark’s organisation and his ability to be involved in all aspects of the build.

Daniel Small was third at the regional awards. Photo: Supplied.
Daniel Small was third at the regional awards. Photo: Supplied.

“The site visit showed us why in-depth planning was so necessary. The site’s isolation meant everything was helicoptered onto the site.

“We were impressed with how Mark has been involved in all aspects of the build. This includes planning, set out, groundworks, prefabrication and the delivery and installation.

“The judges look forward to seeing where Mark takes his career,” they said.

Mark will now go on to compete against the 10 regional winners from across the country at the national CARTERS Apprentice of the Year 2020 competition in Auckland this November.

Heagney Bros chief executive Mickayla Kerr with their new Scania logging truck. Photo: Matt Brown.

Trucking toward the future

Six-hundred and twenty horsepower, automatic deflating tyres and a computer that scores the driver on their skills – Heagney’s newest logging truck, Truck #35, has everything but the kitchen sink.

Purpose-built for logging to exacting specifications designed by Heagney Bros owners Peter and Patrick Heagney, the trucking stalwarts embraced the opportunity to include the latest safety and environmental features in the Scania Euro V.

Heagney Bros chief executive Mickayla Kerr says the latest noise reduction technology in the heavy vehicle is a welcome feature – especially when travelling through built up areas.

The 620 horsepower, 16-litre V8 boasts an impressive 3,000 newton meters of torque. 
The 620 horsepower, 16-litre V8 boasts an impressive 3,000 newton meters of torque.

“Our drivers are out as early at 3.30am in the morning collecting their first load of the day and with more and more forests being located near or having to travel past residential areas this feature reduces the distinctive noise and rattle of logging trucks,” she says.

“Scania is known for a quiet ride and has a retarder rather than an engine brake making its braking system quiet in built up areas.

“This combined with the lay over bolster system removes the distinctive rattle of the pins as logging trucks drive by.”

Fitted with an 8-speed automatic gear box, the 620 horsepower, 16-litre V8, 54 tonne Scania boasts an impressive 3,000 newton meters of torque.

The EBS braking system and the onboard computer, which measures the trucks weight, adapts to ensure braking is efficient, safe and reliable.

Winches constantly tighten the chains while driving, ensuring that even when a load settles that chains do not come loose while the tyre inflation monitors keeps all the tyres at the correct pressure, reducing tyre wear.
Winches constantly tighten the chains while driving, ensuring that even when a load settles that chains do not come loose while the tyre inflation monitors keeps all the tyres at the correct pressure, reducing tyre wear.

Patchell Group sales manager Glenn Heybourn weighed in on the design of the purpose-built Patchell logging frame and trailer.

“The design length of the trailer was created specifically with safety in mind to enable 6.1 meter logs to be double bunked rather than a single stacked,” Glenn says.

“This reduces the centre of gravity of the load making it safer giving it one of the safest SRT (Static Roll threshold) on the road today.”

Mickayla says the truck has all the tricks, like air operated winches, early bearing failure detectors and central tyre inflation monitors.

The winches constantly tighten the chains while driving, ensuring that even when a load settles that chains do not come loose while the tyre inflation monitors keeps all the tyres at the correct pressure, reducing tyre wear.

It also provides warning if there is a flat tyre and enables the driver to reduce tyre pressure to increase the surface area of the tyre when the conditions require extra traction.

Rob Graham, a member of the Heagney Bros team for more than 15 years has been selected as the driver of the new truck.

The truck was purpose-built for logging to exacting specifications designed by Heagney Bros owners Peter and Patrick Heagney.
The truck was purpose-built for logging to exacting specifications designed by Heagney Bros owners Peter and Patrick Heagney.

Truck #35 will evaluate Rob’s driving, using a Communicator 300.

The reporting tool provides weekly and monthly reporting scoring the drivers performance on fuel, efficiency, and emissions.

But the truck is also built for comfort.

Rob enjoys leather seats, all the safety features and even a fridge to keep the sammys cold.

Redesigned windows, more mirrors and a forward driving position gives him unparalleled vision – especially useful when navigating tricky skid sites.

“It’s a great example of a local business leading innovation and safety,” Mickayla says.

Staff at Blenheim's Re-Use shop helped raise money for E Tū Tāngata as part of Metallic Sweepings bid to give back to the community. Photo: Paula Hulburt

Re-use centre’s labour of love

Keeping unwanted goods out of landfill helped raise vital funds for a charity supporting Marlborough school students.

The Re-Use Centre at Blenheim’s Resource Recovery Centre in Wither Road receives thousands of unwanted items every year.

Operators Metallic Sweeping have pledged to donate part of the revenue they raise by selling on donated goods to charity.

Metallic Sweeping director Clive Peter today handed a cheque for $22,000 dollars to 24-7 YouthWork E Tū Tāngata Founder Jay Gerald.

He says the company, who are waste contractors for Marlborough District Council, are proud to help support the community

“When we look at the issues that face our communities, especially the issues that our youth and young people face and when I look at the work that 24-7 do, it pulled at our heartstrings.

“These are the value that we inspire to embrace, and we decided we wanted to support them and keep funding their work.”

24-7 YouthWork is New Zealand’s leading school-based youth work provider and recently celebrated 21 years of work in communities across the country.

In 2011, 24-7 YouthWork began working in Redwoodtown School, which was followed by Marlborough Girls’ College in 2016.

Jay says the latest initiative, E Tū Tāngata, is about instilling sense of confidence, in young people especially, and creating a climate where everyone can flourish.

From camera chargers and books to glass wear and toys, all sorts of items can be found at the popular Re-Use Centre.

Situated next to the recycling centre off Wither Road, the shop is a treasure trove of goods.

Rather than being dumped items are made available for someone else to use.

They are checked, cleaned and sometimes re-worked before being made available for sale to the public at low prices, to cover costs.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the work the centre does is of great benefit to the whole community.

“Back in the 1970s I worked on the rubbish cart and there was no recycling then.

‘Times are changing and we’re all up for that; young people especially are up for that and are the drive behind change.”

Marlborough District Council solid waste manager Alex McNeil says the Re-Use Centre has an important role to play.

“It’s come along way from 2011. There are a lot of social challenges that fly under the radar because we have a vibrant economy and the council are looking at that.

“As Covid-19 and unemployment kick in people in will need cheaper furniture.”

AppliancePlus Blenheim owner Michael Fitzpatrick. Photo: Matt Brown.

Reno plans dashed by whiteware wait

Kiwis turning to home renovations in the wake of Covid-19 are facing lengthy waits for whiteware.

Low interest rates and soaring house prices have seen people cashing in to carry out renovation work.

But a world-wide shortage of appliances is being felt across Marlborough, with some customers waiting weeks for new goods.

Kitchen and laundry appliances, like ovens and washing machines, are in short supply with some models taking nearly two months to arrive on our shores.

AppliancePlus Blenheim owner Michael Fitzpatrick says a surge of buyers as the coronavirus pandemic closed factories around the world created the “perfect storm”

“Most appliances we’re ordering today are not available,” Michael says.

“We’re waiting one or two months for stock, some even longer.”

“We’ve got multiple brands and plenty of stock but ff it’s not in store, it’s a six week wait.”

Michael says appliance sales are up across the board throughout the country.

“It’s a combination of no holidays for 12 months and low interest rates triggering excess capital for home improvements.

“Out of COVID we had a massive surge and suppliers haven’t been able to catch up.

100% Herkt Appliances store owner Lisa Herkt says there have been “massive disruptions” in the supply chain.

“There may be ovens sitting in factories in Thailand 98 per cent complete waiting on a component from Europe,” she says.

“Covid is still happening worldwide on a grand scale.

“Things are dribbling through, but not at the scale they were. We’ve been in the game for 30-odd years and we’ve never seen anything like it. It’s bizarre.”

She says disruptions began in February and she’s forecasting for ongoing difficulties through November.

“It depends on how it plays out and where stock’s coming from,” she says.

“Distribution is a big one – there are less boats moving around. The days of things being made in New Zealand are long gone – it’s a global market now.

“Noone could have predicted the scale of disruption.”

Michael says he doesn’t know of any price rises this side of Christmas.

“We had price rises on the first of July, once we came out of COVID.

“I’m not seeing the level of discounting there was before – because there’s a lack of stock.”

He says it’s still a very competitive market and if you’re planning to do a renovation in November, you need to order appliances now.

Writer Gavin Kerr has reprinted his popular poetry book twice. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Poetry in motion a money spinner

A poetry book written during lockdown has raised $1000 dollars for Alzheimers Marlborough.

Author Gavin Kerr self-published work Under Lockdown has been reprinted twice since it was published last month.

Earlier this week, the Blenheim writer, whose wife Liz died in March from complications relating to Alzheimers, took a cheque to the Wither Road centre.

“The public were very generous in their support, with two reprints being necessary to cater for demand both in New Zealand and in Australia.

“I would especially thank the Marlborough community for their contribution to the project. It was most heartening indeed,” he says.

The former school principal and academic says the support he and Liz had from staff at Alzheimers Marlborough was vital following Liz’s diagnosis.

Alzheimer Marlborough manager Diane Tolley says the organisation appreciates Gavin’s kindness.

“Alzheimers Marlborough was thrilled to receive a very generous donation of $1000.

“Personally, receiving of a copy of the poem “The Lockdown” written twenty days after the passing of Gavin’s wife brought home to us the range of emotions families go through, as the dementia journey progresses.

“We were pleased to be able to support Gavin and his family through their journey and encourage all people affected by dementia to seek the support of the caring staff at Alzheimers Marlborough.

“Having support in place, as soon as possible after a diagnosis, can assist the person living with dementia and their family to continue to lead fulfilling lives,” she says.

Books are still available for $25 from both Marlborough Alzheimers office on Wither Rd or by emailling  [email protected].