Waiheke vintners are relieved and excited to welcome back migrant workers for the next harvest, after the government’s announcement last week that the borders will start to reopen over the next few months.
Obsidian Vineyard viticulturist Tim Adams says usually people on working holiday visas made up between 60 and 75 per cent of Obisdian’s crew during harvest. So, like most vineyards on the island, they’ve had to scramble to plug the gaps after the pandemic cut off the supply of extra harvest workers. Vaccinated Australians will be allowed into the country from 13 April, followed by people from other visa-waiver countries, such as the United States and UK in May. Opening up to the rest of the world is also likely to be brought forward from October, but no firm dates have been announced yet.
So, Obsidian will finish its harvest well before the borders reopen “[but] getting access again to people on working holiday visas is key [for the next season.] We’re looking forward to welcoming them back,” Adams says. Obsidian was lucky to have enough friends and family willing to step in and help out over the past two years, but this return to normal will make the next season, starting in Autumn, run much smoother, Adam says. Also, the island is coming off a dry four years, which at times almost reached drought conditions, and that will have an ongoing impact on the vines, Adam says. The flip side was, this meant the weather was consistently clear enough that “we could pick and choose when we harvest.” This allowed Obsidian to schedule the picking around how available workers were, and minimise disruption. • Paul Mitchell
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