Nursery comes up roses

Many businesses have been facing challenges finding staff since the COVID-19 pandemic, but positivity is starting to bloom again for Wagner’s Rose Nursery.

Wagner’s Rose Nursery owners Brian Wagner and Benedetta Rusconi said they were seeking around 10 staff when the season first started and it had been “really hard” to find people.

“I think the big problem that we’re up against at the moment is there are very few backpackers in the country,” Mr Wagner said.

“So we’re waiting for backpackers to come back into the country.

“We’re hearing that story all the time with a lot of the rural workers, fruit pickers and seasonal workers, they’re really struggling.”

Ms Rusconi said the business was “relying on backpackers a lot”.

Fortunately, the couple is starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and said they could see the situation getting easier now that borders had re-opened.

“I’m thinking that we will certainly have a large group of backpackers next season, so it’s not particularly worrying me too much at the moment now,” Mr Wagner said.

“This year’s sort of starting to pan out to be a little bit easier, initially it was not, but I think at the moment we’re starting to feel quite comfortable with who we have got,” Mr Wagner said.

“The group we have got at the moment, so far it’s really good, nice group of people.”

Recently, the couple approached the Red Cross and employment agencies which was starting to pay off, and they received phone calls after posting on Facebook they were seeking staff.

The couple said they currently had a group of Congolese people working for them along with a French chef who was born in Portugal but lived in France for the past 10 years.

However, they said people tended to leave sooner rather than later, which caused the difficulty of needing to re-train new workers frequently.

Mr Wagner said the likely reason for this was backpackers heading up north to the warmer weather.

“We have had quite a few here, we have even had backpackers that have come back a second year, we would love for them to stay, some of them have just been amazing workers and lovely people,” he said.

Mr Wagner also believed that often people’s expectations of working in a rose nursery were different to what it was actually like.

“It’s a lot of hard work, it’s a lot of physical work, so I think they get a little bit of a shock sometimes when they realise the type of work that we do,” he said.

Ms Rusconi said language barriers could also make communication and explaining how to carry out jobs challenging.

The nursery is currently in the busiest time of the season and the main job right now is pruning roses, cutting them back for the market and other jobs include lifting plants, planting stock and boxing plants up for sale.

Mr Wagner said with 10 people working they could plant 15,000 to 20,000 cuttings a day.

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