Oct 262010

Seasonal working is what many backpackers will end up doing during their gap year, or working holiday visa duration in New Zealand.  For most people, seasonal working either falls into one of two areas : Fruit Picking, or working on the ski fields.  This guide will detail the fruit picking side of seasonal working.

Fruit Picking jobs in New Zealand

There are a few varieties of ‘fruit picking’ work in New Zealand which fall into the main categories outlined below :

Fruit Picking
This work will usually involve picking fruit from trees or plants and placing them into bags which are then emptied into larger bins.  This type of work is very labour intensive, and can mean picking from a ladder if the fruit you are picking grows on trees or larger bushes.

Fruit Grading
Fruit grading means you will be selecting fruits to go into trays, and will often involve long periods of standing, or shift work.  You may be grading fruit from a conveyor belt so you could be standing for long periods.

Fruit Packing
This type fo fruit work can also involve long periods of standing or shift work and you will be filling trays with fruits.

Stacking and strapping means you will be packing fruit into cartons and strapping them down, and comes further down the chain from the previous type of work mentioned.

Machine Operation
As you can imagine there are some machines that are commonly used throughout the fruit picking process.  Many of these roles are likely to require a further certificate such as the ability to drive tractors, or operate a forklift truck.

Quality Control and Supervising
This role is often occupied by people with prior experience in the fruit picking industry and will would involve supervising others in orchards, farms or packing sheds to ensure the quality control processes were being adhered to.

Many of the above roles are advertised on specialist sites, hostel noticeboards and job desks in the bigger hostels.  There are also many hostels in the specific areas that specialise in placing workers in local companies.  Usually you can give them a call before you head to the area and have a chat to see if there is work available, and if you’re lucky you could be earning money within days.  If you get work through a hostel there are usually conditions that you must stay there during the period of the employment.  Whilst this sounds like you are tied in to a specific hostel, it also means you are working and living in the same place as your colleagues so there can be a big comaraderie between people on site.

As you can imagine this type of work is very seasonal as well and different regions have their busy times according to the fruits that are grown and processed in that area

The main areas involved, and their high seasons are roughly :

Northland (North of Auckland) – April to July peak, but year round potential
Waikato / Bay of Plenty (South East of Auckland) – March to May peak, but year round
Hawkes Bay (East of North Island) – February to May peak
Wairarapa (North East of Wellington) – less work here but February to May peak
Abel Tasman (Nelson – North/NW of North Island) – February to April peak
Marlborough (North East of South Island) – year round, but June to August peak
Central Otago (South of South Island – Queenstown area) – December to March peak

Many backpackers initially consider fruit picking to be easy money, but its a commitment to hard graft, and the people who make the most generally have a bit more experience, or put in the real effort to get through the work.  As you gain experience you’ll become better at identifying better fruits and ensuring the quality control is done correctly so you’ll get less surprises at the end of the day.  If you think about the weight of apples and the lifting involved, or getting your hands stuck into some prickly pruning you’ll get a more realistic view.  In saying this, it’s a great way of getting some funds to extend your trip in the land of the great white cloud….  We’ll soon draw up a list of hostels and websites which will help you on your way.

If you have any experience in this industry or have top tips to help others please pass them on through the comments below.

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