GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

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!

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40 thoughts on “GRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

  1. I just have to shake my head. The workers are being ‘nickeled and dimed’ as we say in the states. (Meaning they are charged for everything… even for the most minor of ‘services’. Wow. We also have an issue of trying to get a living wage for migrant workers.

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    • It’s just disgusting. We watched a program about the sugar cane workers and were horrified, then to find this happening here…!! They prey on the naivete of these people and these guys knew something was very wrong but couldn’t quite get a handle on all the figures. Their dismay and distress was very apparent once everything was explained in a way they could understand.

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  2. The new and legal slavery. 😦 It stinks that there are people in so-called civilised countries that treat their fellow man (and women I’m sure) like this. It’s little different to the slavery of children and families by money in India that pick cotton to pay off a debt they can never clear.
    Good luck with both your battles. One for your health and one for your conscence.

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  3. First, your picture is stunning! As for the spraying that should not be allowed! As for the SLAVE LABOR…that was suppose to end years ago ,but it goes on today in so many places even here in the USA( those that pick our crops)…

    you are helping by sharing and giving the workers some place to grow vegetables…and I bet you are proud to be married to someone that cares and is not passive…we all need to stand up for the little guy…….

    p.s. I was talking to a man who repairs our computers that moved his kids out to the country to get out of the city…well, one day he was showing me pictures of a plane dropping pesticides on the crops that surround the house he owns…..hmmmm….we are better able to grow organic food in the city than out in the country where farmers practice monocroping in our rural areas and spraying of chemicals is rampant! you have every right to grrrrr!!!!

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    • I am very proud of my husband πŸ™‚ he is a good person. Whereas I care but would tend to go at things differently to him (discretely and with lots of research and through other channels!) he will “grab a bull by the horns” and make a noise lol, I fear the energy this will need to cope with.

      Yep, country living brings it’s perils and not until you move there do you realise the extent of it unfortunately.!

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  4. “Sheer bloody greed…” pretty much captures it. Worldwide. If there is an ounce of currency to be extracted, they’ll find ways – at any costs.

    Among it all, I still find grace, beauty and something positive in the name of depletion and exploitation. We have to; otherwise they steal our joys.

    A thoughtful post. Thanks!

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  5. Shame on them, shame on us for letting them do this. Can a warning be placed in the papers of the places these poor souls come from, telling them what will really happen once they arrive here? I’m all for employing local people above migrants but many locals wont do this sort of hard yakka and migrants should be paid and given the same conditions as locals. Not a penny less and definitely should not have to pay to get to work, or for their rent. Shame. I’d be placing letters in all the local and national newspapers and town shop windows as well. Good on you for helping out. As for the buggers spraying your properties, sue the pants off them in one big class action.

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    • Yep, SHAME. My husband wants to put an ad in the local newsletter. (10 rooms for rent, $1080 per week each, Phone……. or ……..) for the locals to read. We promised the guys we would do nothing that would impact on them, but after they leave in 3 months we can. We can do other things now though πŸ™‚

      No, they shouldn’t have to pay for accommodation or to get to work or to wash their clothes…..My husband worked for one of these owners for two years so he knows what he’s like to work for but never knew any of this…how bad it was for the migrants.

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  6. I read this post with horror Wendy – I have just finished a wee rant on Linne’s blog about the whole political situation and Monsanto at the moment…… it feels hopeless doesn’t it!

    But there’s a wee still, quiet voice inside of me that says all will be well and I must listen to this. I know we are living through a time of enormous change, a time when those who choose life and unity and health will outnumber those who choose money and power and war.

    We are literally choosing the dark or the light. The light is winning, but the dark will fight back even harder. Every time someone raises their voice for peace, for equality, for health we win a little battle. Every time someone moves in righteous anger to change a wrong, we win a big battle.

    Don’t get lost in your anger and frustration, understand the picture is bigger than we know and what we choose to do does make a difference. I say this to myself every day – I say this to you now. It’s people like you and your husband who are making the big differences, the fact that you care is vital, the fact that you stand up is heroic.

    Thank you for sharing this, it is good to know what is going on for you.
    xoxoPauline

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    • Yes, things often do look hopeless Pauline when you look at what is happening around the world but I too believe everything will be ok in the end. I truly do believe revolutions are necessary at this time of our evolution and that is happening and will continue. Revolutions are sometimes difficult but the other options are worse!!

      My husband kept raving about George Orwell’s book 1984 so I just read it. What a dismal and dark projection he created for the reader. I don’t believe it will ever come to that!!!!!!!

      What we choose to do DOES make a difference, I know in my heart. I like what you wrote here, can relate to it, thanks πŸ™‚ xxx

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  7. Well, GEEZ!!! I am sure you aren’t the only ones concerned about all the issues. You need to get together and get a petition going and send it to the government or whoever you have to to get things changed for about the spraying AND the workers. Both are terrible!

    I do applaud you for letting them grow vegetables on your property. That is very good of you. The photo of the mountains is just breathtaking!

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  8. Every backpacker from any part of the world that has spent time in Bleinheim vineyard will have a story to tell. They call it B-f’king-heim. My own experience happened in Hawkes Bay when I was just a backpacker, a bunch of us work our arse off winter pruning a vineyard on contract, and none of us, even the fastest, is able to meet the minimum wage through the cut throat piece rate, and none of us are paid minimum wage as required by law.
    I subsequently lodged a complain to Dept of Labour, they requested for the timesheet from the contractor, which he faked the hours of our work, so that the sum of hours worked are about equal to the piece rate payed out. Interestingly, my hours were put in for one of the day that I did not work, but I did not keep my Burger King receipt to proof that I am not at work. The contractor subsequently defamed me saying I left and did not return the pruning gears (which I did returned), and lodge a police report (which I rang the Hastings Police Station to check, and they confirmed no report has been lodged against me), and that I am unable to communicate in English, which they have to get the Chinese supervisor to communicate with me. I lost the case because it seems that I am deemed guilty unless proven not.
    Subsequently, I ended up in this stonefruit orchard and vineyard in Canterbury as the 2IC, and I love to employ backpackers who have spent time in Bleinheim to work on our vineyard because they are broke, ripped off, and they are hungry to make back the cash. Makes good worker. We pay them hourly rate with set reasonable expectations and provide cheap accomodation, firewood, and treat them humanely πŸ˜‰
    End of story.

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    • Geez, yours is a horror story!! see, this is the thing, there are consequences for those who complain.

      I will show my husband this reply of yours Justin….I worked in the vineyards myself for 1 1/2 years so I know what hard work it is and very often what shit pay it is….that is why we have too import labour because many kiwis won’t do it – except those who WINZ send to get off benefits.

      I appreciate your comments and the fact you care about your workers so much, kudos to you for that…..at that end of the day that should be the norm ay!!

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  9. Mom says:

    I live in grape country in Niagara on the Lake, Canada. This has really made me pause and think?? Could this be happening in my own backyard?? As we are in the dead of winter I shall have to wait until spring to delve deeper into this on a more personel level with the workers themself. I pass them almost every day when they are here. I cross my fingers that this is not happening here!

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  10. RT says:

    Good luck in your struggle. You’re right, regardless of not wanting to, you do have to take on this battle. Unfortunately, corporate greed now has more power than government rule.

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  11. Legalised slavery…big business gets cheap labour one way or another and this NEEDS to be exposed. Can you go to a newspaper? Write letters? Do you think a local expose could be highlighted by a television channel? They love this sort of thing and it would give your cause a much wider audience. The more people that know, the more tide against the companies. It’s like this everywhere at the moment…big business is running over everyone in their need to make massive profits. Forget the fact that businesses have lifespans, not THESE businesses! Ethics? “forgedaboudit!” ANYTHING for a profit at any cost. Time we reigned them in but we as a society are lazy and complacent and too eager to pull our heads in “not my problem” and that’s where brave people like you are to be supported and helped with their actions. I am proud of you for being a kind, ethical and decent human being Wendy and Roger πŸ™‚

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    • Thank you Fran πŸ™‚

      Roger has emailed a TV program journalist, we will see if that comes to anything. I am just waiting on a full payslip from one of the guys to write to immigration and the Dept of Labour. Yeah, it is time to bring it out into the open, it’s just bloody disgraceful practice.

      I am more determined now than a few days ago when I was inwardly groaning about what this would involve with a “can’t even get my head around Christmas” attitude but I’m all good now lol….we are onto it πŸ™‚ There are lots of avenues and we will just start. We can’t do anything locally till these guys leave the area but we can go further afield…this just needs publicity and awareness of the issues right now.

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  12. Sorry it took so long to get to your post, “Q” is quite a way down in my RSS Feed Reader and I had a large backlog from last weekend when I went down to Hobart with my girls. SO angry about this! I wish I lived near you so that we could all form a posse and placard the basta$#’s!!!!! If we don’t stand up over things like this, we deserve the society that we end up with! So glad you are feeling a bit less stressed about this now and that the ball is rolling πŸ™‚

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  13. Wendy, this is so wrong in every sense of the word. You try so hard to provide good pesticide free food and then you can’t protect your own property from the sprays. As for the workers, it’s hard to know what can be done to help them as it seems they are locked into a bad situation.

    Your picture is so gorgeous it’s sad to think what they are doing to that lovely land.

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  14. I was so saddened by your story of the spraying. I know it goes on, but in my dream of moving back to the country somewhere, I sorta forgot about things like that. It’s hard for me to think about.

    As to the slavery (and that’s what it is), we seem to have gotten more efficient and cost-effective at keeping slaves. In the old days, slave-owners had to provide some sort of food and shelter for their workers; now they pay them a measly pittance, then take it all back in rent, laundry, transportation costs, etc.

    But I’ve had cause to think deeply since I first read this. Watching the coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death, I thought that what we need to do is not mourn; he did amazing things with his life and now has gone on to whatever comes next. We who are left behind now have the opportunity to follow in his footsteps. Few are called to such an heroic, iconic life; most of us simply find small ways to effect change in the bit of the world that surrounds us.

    This is what I see you and Roger doing now and it is very inspiring. It won’t be easy, but you will sleep better at night. Signing an online petition is important, but what you are doing is so much more.

    I wish you all the best as you work to improve things in your bit of the world. I am grateful to you for rising to the challenge; in your own way, you will inspire others. Slowly, but steadily, change occurs. The dark may rise, but it shall not win. One candle can banish darkness from a room; nothing dark exists that can banish light . . .

    Hang in there and keep us updated. If you start a petition online, let us know; I will be happy to sign it and to re-blog.

    Hugs to you. ~ Linne

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    • Yes, I agree with you, slowly but steadily. There are a few avenues we can go down now, a few more later when these guys move on from this area but one thing that does need to happen is the raising of awareness that this is happening and it’s not ok.

      We can only but try! Will let you all know how getting on…if at all πŸ™‚

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  15. Julia says:

    What about a boycott of the wines until they start respecting workers! So, name(s) of their wines please.
    Also, contact all the local labour unions (trade, professional, medical, municipal, etc) and describe your issues, which could mean access to legal, political and media resources for the workers. Try contacting environmental groups for your issues with their spraying.
    There is only one thing that business understands: profits, so boycotts, threat of unionization, and environmental groups protesting, affect profits and then big business must change!
    All the best in 2014

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    • I haven’t put an update on this yet. We did go to the media and though received no reply to it two weeks later the CEO from the agency who “imports” them came to see these men to discuss their issues and is arranging for them to go elsewhere next season and their accomodation costs have been halved. I am writing to the immigration and labour depts with our concerns. They are alot happier with this, we will keep on with it to make sure all those natonally are more supported and protected by our government.

      Thanks for your interest in this πŸ™‚

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