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New Zealand’s Biggest Industries


3 huge industries in New Zealand.

New Zealand’s got to make money. Considering how far away from the rest of the world NZ is, this doesn’t hinder its ability to export a lot of goods. In particular, it is the largest dairy and sheep meat exporter in the world. Experiencing farm life is an integral part of Kiwi culture and that is why many backpackers opt for farmstays and WWOOFing while travelling in New Zealand. With expanding cities and rebuilding the Canterbury region after the earthquakes, there is much promise in the construction industry. And because so many people want to see for themselves how awesome New Zealand is, this has boosted the tourism industry. In turn, there are plenty of opportunities arising in hospitality, transportation and entertainment venues. So with all that in mind, here are more details on New Zealand’s biggest industries.

What are the 3 biggest industries in New Zealand?

This mini guide will go through the three big industries in NZ and what jobs backpackers can do in them.

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Tourism
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Agriculture Industry in New Zealand

Agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest industry. Overall, it generates 70% of NZ’s merchandise export earnings and 12% gross domestic product. New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter for dairy and sheep meat, which is evident as you drive past never-ending sheep and cow fields. A subindustry, horticulture, covers 121000ha of New Zealand. The industry is worth NZ$5 billion including domestic sales and export, which includes sales of wine, kiwifruit and summerfruits. It also provides seasonal jobs perfect for backpackers.

Jobs in New Zealand’s Agriculture Industry

The agriculture industry has a skill shortage in certain jobs. By possessing skills in the following jobs you will find it easier to get a work visa in New Zealand: beekeeping, dairy, beef, pig farming, logging operations, agricultural science, animal science, biotechnology science, and viticulture.

A great way for backpackers to get some farming experience is through WWOOFing. You can see how a New Zealand farm is run while getting free accommodation and meals.

Other backpacker jobs include:

Find out what it’s like to work in horticulture in Working a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand


Construction Industry in New Zealand

Construction certainly is a growing industry in terms of jobs. There is a big demand for construction workers in the ever growing Auckland and to help rebuild Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region after the 2010/2011 earthquakes.

Like agriculture, skilled construction workers will find it easy to get a work visa as many jobs are on the skill shortage list. While many are managerial positions, other jobs on the list include: scaffolder (advanced), foreman and survey technician.

Jobs in the Construction Industry

Backpacker jobs in the construction industry:

  • Labourer
  • Carpenter
  • Bricklayer
  • Hammerhand
  • Painter
  • Plasterer
  • Welders
  • Joiners

Power Tip: An easy way to find jobs in the construction industry is though recruitment agencies. Find out more in What You Need to Know About Recruitment Agencies in New Zealand.


Tourism Industry in New Zealand

One in 11 New Zealanders work in the tourism industry. It is second to dairy farming in terms of foreign exchange earnings. Tourism is an interrelation of activity providers, transportation, hospitality and entertainment venues.

Jobs in the Tourism Industry

Backpacker jobs in the tourism industry:

  • Cleaner
  • Hotel or Hostel receptionist
  • Hospitality: bartender, waitress, etc.
  • Catering: chef or kitchen hand
  • Driver
  • Outdoor recreation guide
  • Tour guide

Don’t forget, we have loads of jobs in this very industry listed on the BackpackerGuide.NZ Job Board.

More facts about industries in New Zealand

  • New Zealand exported 291302 tonnes of seafood in 2013.
  • The tourism industry generates NZ$65.2 million per day in NZ.
  • The hi-tech industry is  the third largest export earner in the country.
  • 19.1 billion litres of milk was made in 2012.
  • On average that’s 4100 litres of milk per cow per year.
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