Some of the River Valley staff, pre-covid


There is no doubt that hospitality and tourism are people industries.

Lousy service – there is a post for a future date! – can quickly break a business, damaging both its reputation and its finances. The key to excellent service is having great people. Having great people is a combination of training, business culture and people on the ground who feel valued and who really do care about the customer experience. To get all this right is never straightforward, but you create something unique (to your place) and special when you do.

This coming season, 2021 – 2022, will be one of the most challenging I can ever recall to get this right.

Why might you ask?

It seems every time I read the news, there is some industry in New Zealand crying out that they cannot get staff. We have heard from the horticultural sector, the arable cropping industry, dairy, construction, hospitality in general. Soon, you will listen to the general tourism industry picking up the same refrain.

A question that has to be asked is, where is everyone?

Even a question as simple as “where is everybody” has many nuances and answers.

New Zealand appears to be trucking along reasonably close to full employment. That is at least for those who want or can take a job. People in the latter category often cannot shift to another area to chase jobs, as many only work part-time because of family or other commitments. To think that there are tens of thousands of New Zealanders who can up sticks and move to another area for what is often seasonal employment is naive at best, stupid at worse.

Temporary workers have in the past met the seasonal surge in employment in various industries. From our own experience, many of these people, but not all, were from overseas.

I read or hear pieces from commentators about how all these seasonal jobs should suddenly be permanent, year-round and choke-full of Kiwis. Again, the real world is not like that. Fruit is not picked year-round, nor do people travel in significant numbers in the winter. Some jobs are seasonal for a reason.

What Did Staffing Look Like for River Valley Pre-Covid?

Including working family, we had between 10 and 12 staff, a mix of part and full time working over the quieter months of the year – May to the end of September. From October onwards, our staff numbers would quickly grow until they peaked at 25 and then drop off again as we moved back into winter. These seasonal staff, many of whom were New Zealanders, would head to the northern hemisphere to ply their trade there before heading back here again. Some did this for years. They loved the travel and regular change of scene. Not only that, but they had an often vital skill base.

The 2020 – 2021 Season

Last season, we decided to box through and do the best we could with working family members and a handful of part-timers. We are a seven day a week business. Not having the cover in many positions lead to some exhaustion amongst us all. I don’t think we can do that as a first choice option again. For the first time, we have voluntarily closed in July to give everyone a break.

Heading into the 2021 – 2022 Season

To say I am concerned about getting the right people in place this coming season is an understatement. There are two issues here.

The first issue is that many people with not easily replaceable skills have left the industry. An example of this is experienced senior river guides. There is already a shortage looking at the advertising taking place already.

The second is getting anybody for positions even where we can offer training.

While many guests and staff view River Valley as heaven on earth, our relative isolation is just too much for many job seekers. The thought of living 30 minutes from a small town and a great deal further from a city does not appeal to most in our heavily urbanised population.

This is where you might be able to help us out. If working at our piece of paradise for a season or longer appeals to you, then please follow the link below. Or if not you, please share the following link with someone you might know –

We are looking forward to receiving your application!


Brian Megaw

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