Some 48 Pacific Islander workers who were forced to flee Batlow for Wagga during the recent bushfires have returned to work in the town's orchards. Montague Orchards general manager of business development, Rowan Little, said that the company had brought in electricity generators to make sure the workers had suitable housing in Batlow.
"It's great. The town's power has been returned but its a bit unreliable so we have the generator as a backup," Mr Little said. "Obviously if we have people living there and the power is off for an extended period that is problematic."
The workers are now taking part in thinning the orchards by removing non-viable fruit and pruning back leaves so that the apples gain a red colour from sunlight before the start of harvest in late February. They will also assist other fruit growers in Batlow prepare their surviving crops for the harvest.
According to goodfruitandvegetables.com.au, Montague suffered bushfire damage to 5000 of its 200,000 apple trees around Batlow.