Producing the Appropriated Rural: ni-Vanuatu Labour on Central Otago Vineyards
(Massey University, Palmerston North)
Rochelle-lee Bailey (University of Canterbury)
Paper short abstract:
Based on fieldwork with ni-Vanuatu vineyard workers, we explore how “Central Otago” is produced as rural idyll. We see a double appropriation of the rural: the myth of non-alienated labour on vineyards is e sustained through the (temporary) alienation of the labour of ni-Vanuatu.
Paper long abstract:
New World wine growing regions appropriate rural imagery in ways which mask the realities of producton and produce such locations as rural idylls. In such idylls productive labour is presented as unalienated: in reality wine production is highly capitalised and reliant on wage labour. In recent decades the Central Otago region of New Zealand has become a prime site of wine production and consumption, with an expanding number of vineyards. However, the region is finding it increasingly difficult to produce wine and itself as wine region because of the shortage of viticultural labour. To relieve rural labour shortages the Government introduced the Recognised Seasonal Employer Policy, under which over 200 rural labourers from Vanuatu worked on Central Otago vineyards for the 2007/2008 season. Ni-Vanuatu were understood as fit for viticultural labour because of their rural backgrounds and because their lack of recent opportunity for wage labour meant that they would not expect high wages. Ni-Vanuatu workers were attracted to the scheme by the opportunity to earn cash to pay school fees and for local development projects. Based on fieldwork with ni-Vanuatu from Ambrym and with vineyard owners, this paper explores the ways in which "Central Otago" is produced. What we see is a double appropriation of the rural: ironically the myth of non-alienated labour on vineyards, a central element of the wine idyll, is only able to be sustained through the (temporary) alienation of the labour of ni-Vanuatu.