More houses, accommodation needed for wine workers in Marlborough

Thai RSE workers, employed by Vinepower Ltd, pick grapes in a Marlborough vineyard.
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ

Thai RSE workers, employed by Vinepower Ltd, pick grapes in a Marlborough vineyard.

The arrival of more workers to meet the demands of the growing wine industry could put pressure on accommodation and services in Marlborough, but there will be plenty of opportunities for developers.

A Marlborough labour market survey shows half of the wine companies surveyed, and all but one labour contractor, feel there is already a shortage of accommodation for workers.

If the number of workers increases by 24 per cent by the 2019/20 growing season, another 189 houses for permanent workers, 442 beds for casuals and a further 600 Recognised Seasonal Employer approved beds will be needed.

Wine Marlborough general manager Marcus Pickens said most of the new developments would happen in Blenheim, and to a lesser extent Seddon.

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Both wine companies and contractors interviewed for the report said their workers preferred living in town, as they had better access to services, he said.

"I wouldn't say the entire look and feel of the place will change, but it will be a bit different."

From the group of eight contractors that were interviewed, some had plans to build new facilities, but the amount of approved RSE beds was not expected to meet demand over the next five years.

This raised the question of overcrowding and the standard of worker accommodation, which the Marlborough District Council had concerns about, the report said.

Council community development advisor Lyne Reeves said she had not seen the entire report but said there should be discussions with community service providers about the possible effects of an influx of people to the region.

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Making sure workers had access to services like health care providers, churches and accommodation was important, she said.

Pickens said the increase in permanent workers, who would likely bring families to the area, could also have a flow-on effect for school rolls.

Council strategic planning and economic development manager Neil Henry said the council had funded part of the report because it was useful to see where development would take place, from a regulatory point of view and to help guide decisions about future infrastructure, such as roading.

The report asked wine companies where they wanted to expand, with 51 per cent of future growth likely to happen in the lower Wairau Valley, but the next largest category, with 26 per cent was unidentified locations.

Henry said this showed the confidence wine companies had in Marlborough, as they wanted to expand regardless of location.

The information contained in the report would be of interest to developers, and the council would try to make them aware of it, as it would encourage more investment in the region, he said.

 - The Marlborough Express

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