Covid career change: Ex-pilot with new job in horti

19-11-2020    12:04   |    Stuff NZ

NEW ZEALAND- Blair Campbell's work as a scenic flight pilot dried up in 48 hours when the Covid-19 lockdown was announced, so he changed direction and has landed himself a new career in horticulture.

From Queenstown, Campbell had been flying for about 15 years of a 20-year career in the tourism industry that also included work as a ski instructor.“When Covid hit, as soon as the lockdown was announced, I hauled out of town,” he said.Campbell headed north to the Nelson-Tasman region where he’d had a home for a few years.

“I had shifted up here three to four years ago,” Campbell said, adding he had been commuting to Queenstown for work.

Safely back at the top of the South Island, Campbell was searching online for a job when he spotted a vacancy for a pipfruit block supervisor with Wai-West Horticulture Ltd.

“I saw this job advertised and applied,” Campbell said. “I realised over lockdown and beyond, this was an industry with good, secure jobs where staff can get trained while they work.”

He was enjoying the variety of tasks and working in a team environment.

“It’s an industry where you keep learning,” Campbell said. “I had been unaware of how big and important the horticulture industry is for Nelson-Tasman and New Zealand. When you are involved [in growing], you realise the complexity and range of jobs.”


There is expected to be “big demand” for people to pick a range of crops in the Nelson-Tasman region such as kiwifruit.

Now in the midst of thinning, Campbell was looking forward to his first experience of a harvest, expecting it to be busy.

“I’ve always had a reasonable work ethic, always had stuff going on – hands on.”

Campbell was one of 27 people who attended one of two supervisors' courses held at the Moutere Hills Community Centre in Tasman District last week that were sponsored by Horticulture NZ, New Zealand Apples & Pears Inc and Primary ITO.

Adam Fleck, of Primary ITO, said other courses were planned for Central Otago and Timaru in late November-early December with a goal of upskilling supervisors to deal with an expected influx of New Zealand workers this season as the RSE scheme had been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Feedback from the courses held at Moutere had been “100 per cent positive”, Fleck said.

Hort Careers Progression governance group chairman, and former Tasman District mayor, Richard Kempthorne said there was a “stack” of permanent positions available in the region’s horticulture sector.


Hort Careers Progression governance group chairman, and former Tasman District mayor, Richard Kempthorne says there’s no shortage of horticulture jobs in the Nelson-Tasman region.

“They’re pretty good jobs,” Kempthorne said. “There’s no shortage of permanent, good-quality horticulture jobs.”

In addition, there would be “big demand” for people to help with seasonal work such as picking a range of crops including apples, kiwifruit, boysenberries, grapes and hops.

“There’s a stream of seasonal work available,” Kempthorne said.


Header photo: The Covid-19 lockdown prompted a career change for Blair Campbell, who switched industries from tourism to horticulture.

Source: and Photo Courtesy of Stuff NZ

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