Kiwifruit Picking and Packhouse Work in Tauranga

So if you have ever read BackpackerGuide.NZ’s stories before, you might know that Robin and Laura are challenging themselves to 365 Days: 365 Activities in New Zealand. It’s New Zealand’s BIGGEST gap year! Although we don’t expect anyone to tackle 365 activities as we are doing, hopefully we are showing you that there is enough in Aotearoa New Zealand to have the most fun-filled year of your life! But how do you fund such an awesome year of living and travelling in New Zealand? Getting a job on a working holiday visa along the way is a great way to sustain the good times and save up for some awesome experiences in New Zealand. So far we have shown you jobs from some of New Zealand’s most iconic industries: beekeeping for manuka honey, dairy farming in Taranaki, sheep shearing in Oamaru… Today, we are checking out the kiwifruit industry in Tauranga!

Finding work with a working hostel

Thanks to the team at Pacific Coast Lodge, a working hostel in Mt Maunganui which specialises in finding jobs for backpackers, we have been hooked up with a kiwifruit orchard for some picking work this morning and a kiwifruit packhouse this afternoon.

The Kiwifruit Capital of New Zealand

First things first, we drive to the neighbouring town of Te Puke, New Zealand’s “Kiwifruit Capital”. Indeed, we drive past rows and rows of kiwifruit orchards, in and out of bush-filled valleys until we arrive at our designated kiwifruit orchard. We spot the Pacific Coast Lodge van parked up here meaning our fellow hostel-dwellers are working here somewhere in between a quick-moving operation of bins of kiwifruit being loaded onto a truck.

Golden sunshine on the golden kiwifruit orchards Golden sunshine on the golden kiwifruit orchards
Make it rain kiwifruit and you'll make it rain dollars! Make it rain kiwifruit and you'll make it rain dollars!
The crates are filing up fast! The crates are filing up fast!
Pick, pick, pick, pick, picking! Pick, pick, pick, pick, picking!

Picking in a kiwifruit orchard

After meeting with our supervisor, Wayne, we are joining his kiwifruit picking team in the orchard who have just finished smoko – (that’s New Zealand and Australian speak for a break). The bubbly team of backpackers from all over the world are armed with special kiwifruit bags strapped to their stomachs and around their backs for support. One of the girls mentions that wearing these bags is what she imagines it is like to be pregnant… We can certainly see what she means – those bags do not look exactly comfortable when they are full of kiwifruit! But filling these bags is where the money is, because picking in a kiwifruit orchard in New Zealand usually follows a wage system of being “payed per piece”. Basically, the more bins filled, the more money these guys are making and the more money they will have for their next leg of travel. Score!

High spirits and impressive teamwork

Although there are no spare bags hanging around for us to wear, we just help a few of the workers fill up their bags – but man, these guys don’t need it! It is impressive to watch how quickly the team are moving down the rows, picking hundreds and hundreds of kiwifruit together every minute! We can barely keep up to take photos and film, let alone help pick any fruit for them!

While some people are focused on their work, others are having heaps of fun together joking around and chatting, which really helps with the comradery. It’s labourous work and definitely not for the weak-willed, but the motivation for money and team spirit really helps see the positive sides of the job.

Filling up those bins fast!

Next step: The Kiwifruit packhouse

Each bag of kiwifruit is poured into wooden crates (bins) which are then transported onto a truck. That truck is then taking the kiwifruit to a packhouse to be sorted, packed and ready to hit the stores! That’s our next destination: a kiwifruit packhouse.

Making boxes and making money!

This packhouse is in a more convenient location on the outskirts of Mt Maunganui. We arrive and meet Justin, the contractor who makes boxes for kiwifruit. Today, he has two girls who are staying at the some hostel as us working on a box machine. Sporting a bright and colourful high-visibility vest, we follow Justin to the impressive machine that glues and folds the kiwifruit boxes together. While one person loads up the machine with different parts of the box, another takes the made-up boxes out of the end of the machine, checks them, then stacks them on a towering pile. Again, this is a job where backpackers can be paid per box, so no wander these girls are working at serious speed!

All the fascinating gadgetry of the packhouse All the fascinating gadgetry of the packhouse
Laura packing those kiwifruit Laura packing those kiwifruit

Conveyor belt city!

We give the work a go ourselves to find that the said “serious speed” only comes once you have worked out your method. Our attempts at stacking boxes and filling up the machine are painfully slow. Moving on, next we are taken around the pretty fascinating land of the “packhouse”. It’s conveyor belt city here at the kiwifruit packhouse! Kiwifruit are going on a journey from the orchard bins to box all going through the hands of backpackers to be checked.

So many kiwifruit; so many speedy jobs!

It’s a synergy of backpacker and machine as conveyor belts bring kiwifruit to be sorted. Workers pick out the rejected ones, then machines organise the kiwifruit depending on shape and size, where more backpackers work at stations to get rid of more rejects. Once the destiny of the kiwifruit has been chosen, they make their journey to have stickers plastered on them – more workers are overlooking the machines here, then finally, the packers put the right amount of kiwifruit in a box and pack them. That final packing station is where, again, we try to help out for a while to experience the work for ourselves. Only then do we appreciate the need for speed!

Once packed, the kiwifruit are stacked high and stored in a warehouse-sized fridge ready for shipment. Phew! That’s a lot of processes for the little kiwifruit, but that means a hell of a lot of seasonal work for backpackers. Hurray!

Back to the lodge with our healthy snacks

It will come as no surprise that we arrive back at the Pacific Coast Lodge with some fresh and delicious kiwifruit rejects. Wahoo for our “five a day”!

Join us tomorrow, where we are back to the activities that you all know and love with a bit of stand-up paddle boarding in Mt Maunganui! See you then!

Laura and Robin

the fascinating landscape of a kiwifruit packhouse
the fascinating landscape of a kiwifruit packhouse Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

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See you tomorrow!

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Comments
  1. I’d love to work in the kiwi fruit industry, it looks fun!

    Comment avatar Faapisa Tupe Godinet
    08/05/2018 at 12:44 pm
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