This is a photo I took in winter of our valley.. Our area of New Zealand was once farming country, when my family first moved here 21 years ago vineyards had been growing for a few years but most land was still farming. It was quite a sleepy town and the average Joe was finding it hard to find employment, there was generally a handful of jobs advertised each week. Vineyards have bought alot of money to the area, now they are EVERYWHERE and they offer alot of employment. I like them, I generally have nothing against the grape growing industry or scenery…except I rue the loss of fruit orchards in favour of grape vines. But this past few weeks we have personally experienced two concerns in regards to vineyards and are now drawn into battles with vineyard owners……don’t want it, resent the effort required and the conflict it will cause but sometimes you can’t sit back and do nothing 😦
Vineyard Spray Drift: We live on the opposite side of the street to a vineyard. Best practice, and required by council bylaws, is that they let neighbours know their spray program and that they spray only when wind is less than 13 knots and blowing South East, away from our street. Imagine our delight!!! to find them out spraying one day when a strong Northerly is blowing and the neighbours wind sock is pointing directly on to our house like a target! Both my husband and the neighbour went over to stop him (nicely of course) but ended up attracting the ire of the contractor who employs this worker. Another neighbour then showed my husband a photo he took of a previous dumping of fertiliser by plane, in which a thick white cloud was blowing onto our house from across the road. Phone calls to council ended up in a visit by them to this vineyard but we are yet to hear the outcome except we did get a letter detailing their spray program. In a large area of a population of only 800 locals we would prefer not to have battles with anyone but this is possibly going to be an ongoing problem…time will tell I guess.
We grow food in our front yard, we live here. It’s bad enough knowing this goes on across the road and there may be consequences of spray drift even if done responsibly but this is not good.
Migrant Exploitation: Where do we even start with this one!? So, we have a group of men from the Pacific islands who use a portion of our garden to grow vegetables because they find things tough financially while they are contracted to work here in the vineyards. Last year an arrangement was made by their employers to up their rate for work. It appeared all good, till they returned a few weeks back and got their first pay slip. While here they have to live in the quarters provided by the vineyard owners. They are charged rent. They sleep four to a small room on two sets of bunks and are charged a whopping $270 a week EACH for this. They are charged $60 a week EACH for travel to work in a van which seats 8 – maybe 10 kms each way. They are charged a total of $7,000 EACH for their travel, which they pay off fortnightly. They have coin operated washing machines. And the list goes on. What they can send home each week is much less than they would earn on minimum wage staying home to work. They work really hard here, it’s not “island time”, it’s fast paced 9 hour a day work. If it rains they can’t work at all so no pay. The scheme for these men to come here was created as a government initiative to help the communities from the islands to earn good money, they formed an alliance with a national Co-op to manage the employment of them and their conditions. Who are the Co-Op? The vineyard and orchard owners they work for 😦 They have it all sewn up. On paper these men would be seeming to earn very good money for their labours…all the wages they are tempted with before they come are factual. Their OUTGOINGS they have to pay back the employers are shocking.
So, what do you when when faced with someone’s pay slip and seeing all this and asked “Can you help us?” This is a nation wide problem. This is a particular problem with two influential and respected business partners in this little area. We have spent 8 years here minding our own business and just getting on doing our own thing. I am groaning here… my husband is ready to take on the industry – we can’t do nothing but this is not a battle I want to have to have. What choice does a person have really, conscience dictates you don’t do nothing. There are thousands of these people working here, many in the same circumstances, tempted here with promises of high wages and then not even able to send a decent amount home to support their families for all their efforts.
Sheer bloody greed by the wealthy, that’s all this is about. Do I want to be involved in taking this on… nope!! I don’t want to have to. Can I do otherwise…I have a hot headed husband stomping around the house determined to make this right in some way and he will try his utmost because he is who he is. You can’t turn the other cheek and hope someone else will sort it because often no-one does so you just tackle it head on….I guess!