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Working a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand


What is it like to do a fruit picking job in New Zealand?

Picking is the go-to job for backpackers. With no long-term commitments and a pretty easy job to get, it’s a great way to make quick money to fund your travels in New Zealand. Fruit picking can take you all over the country, working in environments from the busy packhouse to the vineyards surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery.

Fruit picking in New Zealand is usually an all-encompassing term of the horticulture industry: working in the orchards or vineyards, the packhouse and the office. As you’ll see from this article, there is a huge workforce behind the production of fruit, vegetables and wine.

Is there a role for you? Browse through the job list below to get an idea of the roles involved. If you are picking or thinning, you may be paid by how much fruit you pick (paid-per-piece), which is a great incentive to work and make more than the average hourly rate. While other roles have an hourly rate of minimum wage or more, which you can read more about in the New Zealand Working Holiday Employment Rights.

When and where to work in an orchard or vineyard

You’ll find there is horticulture work to be done throughout the year in New Zealand. But if you are looking for a specific job, then you are best chasing the right season and right region. The seasons in New Zealand are as follows: summer (December-February), autumn (March-May), winter (June-August) and spring (September-November).

The biggest horticulture regions in New Zealand are Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Hawke’s Bay, Wairarapa (Wellington), Marlborough, Nelson and Otago. You can read more about the best region and season combinations for orchard and vineyard work in our article Picking Seasons in New Zealand.

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Credit: Cecilia Lindqvist

How to find fruit orchard and vineyard work in NEw Zealand

Because there are so many roles involved in running an orchard, vineyard and packhouse, finding a job in the horticulture industry in New Zealand is pretty easy, especially in the right season and region. We suggest you take a look at the Picking Seasons in New Zealand to decide where you want to go. Then look for horticulture jobs using these three methods:

Ask around
Showing up at a winery/vineyard or orchard and asking if they have any jobs going goes a long way in New Zealand. This is a good way to find jobs that are not advertised online.

For those jobs that are advertised online, make sure you check our job listings page!

Ask in your backpacker hostel
A lot of New Zealand’s hostels in fruit-growing and wine-making regions work closely with the horticulture industry because they can supply horticulture companies with workers. So ask at your hostel whether they know of any jobs going.

Although there are more ways of finding jobs, these three methods are usually all you need to find orchard, packhouse or vineyard work. If you need more job finding inspiration, have a read over How to Find a Job Quickly in New Zealand.


Outdoor fruit orchard jobs

There’s no better place to work in New Zealand than the great outdoors. You will need a good level of fitness for outdoor fruit orchard work, which might involve lifting, standing for a few hours, kneeling and bending over to get those lower growing fruits. You’ll certainly increase your fitness when working for a fruit orchard. Also, be aware that work hours may be irregular due to the weather conditions.

Outdoor fruit orchard jobs include:

  • Fruit thinner – Take off bad or excess fruit off the tree/vine so new fruit can grow.
  • Picker – Pick the fruit that meets the right standards and put it in a bin or bucket.
  • Fruit tree pruner – Tree branches are pruned with specialised equipment like secateurs, loppers or electronic pruners.
  • Tractor driver – With the licence to drive a tractor, drivers remove full bins and place empty bins in convenient places for the pickers.
  • Hydraladas operator – Operators must know how to operate these machines to pick fruit from the top of trees where ladders cannot reach.
  • Forklift operator – Load fruit bins on and off trucks. Must have a forklift licence.
  • Truck drivers – Transport fruit between orchards, packhouses and shippers. Paperwork is involved too.
  • Pre-harvest crop monitor – Collect statistical data and view orchard to identify diseases and pests.
  • Pre-harvest quality controller – Collect data and fruit samples to test for maturity to set parameters.
  • Harvest quality controller – Work on the orchard and take random samples to check size, quality and maturity.


Outdoor vineyard jobs

Be part of making New Zealand’s famous wines. New Zealand has nine wine-making regions, which you can check out in 9 Great Winery Tours in New Zealand to see what they are all about.

Outdoor vineyard roles include:

  • General vineyard work – Debugging, tucking and general maintenance to the vines.
  • Summer vineyard work – This can include a number of jobs, such as bud rubbing, shoot thinning, wire lifting, fruit thinning, leaf plucking and net placement..
  • Grape harvest pickers – Pick the grape bunches. While some vineyards use machines, other vineyards in New Zealand still use people as pickers.
  • Grape pruning – This varies depending on the type of grapes but generally it requires pruning, stripping out, tying and wrapping.


Indoor Packhouse jobs

The packhouse is another popular place for backpackers to work. Roles can vary depending on the size of the packhouse. Most jobs require workers to check the quality of the fruit and pack them into boxes. The roles listed below are often combined in smaller packhouses, while you might be given just one job in the bigger companies.

Packhouse roles include:

  • Grader – Sort the bad fruit from the good fruit.
  • Cleaner/shed hand – Make sure the fruit meets industry standard.
  • Data management clerk – Collect data in the packhouse.
  • Labeller – Label packaged fruit using a computer.
  • Stacker – Stack boxes of packaged fruit.
  • Strappers – Wrap stacked fruit boxes in plastic or tape to be ready for shipment.
  • Tray filler/packer – Watch out for defects in fruit and make sure the packed fruit is presented well.
  • Post-harvest quality controller – Take random samples and data of packaged fruit to asses size, quality, maturity and colour.
  • Coolstore personnel – Keep records of stock movement in the coolstore.
  • Line manager – Ensure the quality of the line is of industry standards.
  • Shift manager – Oversees the workers and workflow during a shift.
  • Inspector – Usually working at the port of export, inspectors make sure the shipment meets international standards.


Office jobs in the horticulture industry

It’s not all laborious work in the horticulture industry. There are a few office opportunities for backpackers too. You are likely to require computer, data input and mathematical skills. Some of the roles below may be inclusive of one job in some companies.

Office roles include:

  • Pre-harvest crop monitor – Collect statistical data and view orchard to identify diseases and pests. This involves going onto the fruit orchard.
  • Office administrator – Input data from the orchards and packhouses.
  • Pay clerk – Pay employees depending on the pay-per-piece or hourly rate system.
  • Data input clerk – Input data from the packed fruit for traceability and matching data with grower records.
  • Manager – In charge of the running of the packhouse, including staff management, planning, administration and budgeting.
  • Foreman – More likely a permanent position for someone with experience in the horticulture industry. It is a managerial position involving supervising staff, operating machine and crop production.


Accommodation when working in horticulture

Working for a fruit orchard, vineyard or packhouse may open different accommodation options to you that will save you money. When looking for a job, ask the potential employers what accommodation is available in the area. Also, check out our 6 Resources to Find a Room to Rent for more ideas.

Onsite accommodation
Some orchards and vineyards have onsite accommodation in the form of caravans and lodges. This is usually a very cheap option and, although not glamorous, a worthwhile option if only working short-term.

Backpacker hostels
Many of the fruit orchards and vineyards work closely with backpacker hostels in New Zealand because that’s where they get most of their workers, so there may be some long-term rooms to rent in the hostel. This will most definitely be in a shared dorm room.

During the warmer months, many backpackers prefer to stay in campsite for the few weeks that they are working. It’s a simple setup but ensures you save maximum money and is often a fun experience when living with your workmates.

Holiday homes and motels
Find a holiday home (or bach, as Kiwis call them) in the area you are working in and see if they offer weekly rates. Make sure you avoid the high seasons for this accommodation option like Christmas and school holidays.

Rent a room in a house or flat
This is a popular option for backpackers working any job for the long-term (more than 3 months). We have an extensive amount of information of finding and renting a room in New Zealand. A good starting point is Find a Flat in New Zealand.

More about working in New Zealand

If you want to work in New Zealand, you need a valid work visa. Read up on how to get a work visa, how to extend your visa by working in the horticulture industry, and more seasonal jobs you may like.

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