Vineyard worker accommodation critical to Marlborough's $1 billion grape industry

Ant Clarke, left, and Richard Oliver are working on new accommodation plans for RSE workers on the former Country Life ...

Ant Clarke, left, and Richard Oliver are working on new accommodation plans for RSE workers on the former Country Life Motel site, Riverlands.

A $10 million plus building project to provide migrant vineyard worker accommodation is critical for the future of Marlborough's billion dollar wine export industry, a project developer says.

The project at the former Country Life Motel site on the outskirts of Blenheim is set for a resource consent hearing at Marlborough District Council this month.

The three-stage development will provide accommodation for more than 400 RSE (recognised seasonal employment) vineyard workers, up to 25 per cent of the region's RSE workforce, from Vanuatu, Kiribati, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Thailand.

Proposed new migrant vineyard accommodation at Riverlands, Blenheim.

Proposed new migrant vineyard accommodation at Riverlands, Blenheim.

The site already accommodated 130 migrant vineyard workers living in 34 self-contained motel style units.

* Expansion of Marlborough wine industry depends on finding enough labour and overcoming accommodation shortages 

* More houses, accommodation needed for wine workers in Marlborough
* Marlborough contracting company Hortus hosts worker accommodation open day

The planned three-stage project would add another 24 three to four-bedroom units capable of accommodating up to 12 workers in each 165-square metre unit.

An administration block for 12 office staff would also be built.

Richard Oliver, of St Andrews Property Group, said the extra 288 beds would help avert the lack of worker accommodation in Blenheim.

"There is an accommodation crisis in Marlborough, and this we hope will go towards addressing some of the issues," Oliver said.

Many RSE workers are currently housed in low quality residential or motel accommodation which is poorly insulated and over-crowded, he said.

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Oliver said the company had discussed the accommodation issues with Marlborough District Council, the wine industry, contractors, and police.

A fully integrated managed residential accommodation facility would provide a solution to the current crisis, he said.

​"Twelve workers in a three-bedroom house with one toilet and kitchen is not the solution to the problem.

"The planned facility will not just provide a bed to sleep and place to eat but also sports, health and cultural areas and services to cater for the workers pastoral care.

"Accommodation for RSE workers in Blenheim is currently unmanaged which can lead to significant safety, health and social issues for the workers in the future."

The new site will provide a safe haven for a total 418 migrant workers and their families to socialise together without access to anti-social pressures, involving drugs and alcohol.

"Having all the workers in one site on the outskirts of Blenheim, instead of living in different houses around the town, is safer and easier to manage," Oliver said.

"It fits that once workers are well managed, they are better behaved."

Oliver said the migrant workforce was essential to the productivity of the region's billion dollar wine industry.

"Without having these workers coming over the wine industry in Marlborough would suffer."

 A Marlborough viticulture labour market survey last year estimated the region's wine industry, worth $1.2 billion in export earnings, will employ 10,300 people, up from 8300, by 2020 when an additional 6800ha of vineyards come on stream.






 - The Marlborough Express


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