Pinterest Facebook Instagram
seasonal work backpackers

Fruit Pick Your Way Around NZ

As temporary job choices go in New Zealand (for all those armed with their working holiday visa) no one industry attracts more workers than the fruit picking and wine producing sectors. For many this is the ideal work - super causal, outdoors, active, very easy to get and often surrounded by the country's trademark breathtaking scenery.

So varied are the types of fruits grown around New Zealand and the climates so diverse that take any month of the year and something is happening somewhere in the country in the field of growing and caring for produce and crops. And that means work. However, there are without doubt busier seasons.

Unlike Australia, which always has a peak season of something, New Zealand's busiest months - and the ones in which the largest number of workers will be needed - are those of December, January, February, March and April. These are all of the summer months and those of early autumn in New Zealand. Typically speaking, these months are linked to the processes involved in the latter stages of growing and then harvesting/picking and packing the produce for storage or distribution.

The other months are more concerned with general maintenance, planting and early growth stage care of plants which are typically the quietest times.

The bottom line is, should you want to and your working holiday visa allows it, you could move around the country's districts from season to season and have a whole year of fruit picking related work.

The Fruit Growing and Picking Regions of New Zealand - South Island

Marlborough – principally a wine-producing region so growing wine grapes, Marlborough also grows sweet corn and olives. There is demand for workers year round but December to August is the busiest period. 

Nelson – a region of sunshine and lots of apples. It also produces blackcurrants, raspberries, pears and boysenberries. There is a year round demand for workers which reaches an extreme peak from March to May. 

Otago – a bit of all sorts with heaps of summer fruits, apples and wine grapes as well as apricots, cherries, nectarines and plums. Otago needs workers year round but demand rises from September to November and especially from March to May.

The Fruit Growing and Picking Regions of New Zealand - North Island

Wairarapa - this is a region of wine producers and there are also some olives grown here. This remote region never really hits high demand for workers but nevertheless does have year round positions. The most are from June to August. 

Hawke's Bay – with growers both tiny and mammoth producing crops of all kinds of fruit and veg, a thriving wine industry and an area which produces more than 50% of the country's apples it’s not hard to see why many of the country's seasonal workers end up here. In fact, nowhere in the country (with the exception of its neighbour to the north – the Bay of Plenty) can rival Hawke's Bay's demand for workers in this industry. Demand is always high and then peaks in autumn (March to May) because of the huge apple industry. Besides the wine grapes and apples, other crops here include pear, apricot, plum, squash, asparagus, pumpkin, peach, nectarine, olives, sweet corn, peas and tomato.

Bay of Plenty – billing itself as the kiwifruit capital of the world, it isn't hard to guess what this region's major crop is but it also produces avocado and feijoa. With relation to worker number demands, this area has the highest in the country along with its southerly bordering neighbour – the Hawke's Bay region. Head this way at any time of year and it should be a doddle to bag some fruit picking industry work but the extreme peaks are autumn and winter (March to August).

Waikato – not one of the country’s highest fruit producing regions, the Waikato still has year round positions for its crops of mainly blueberries, onions, potatoes and asparagus. Demand is highest from September to February.

Northland – the sub-tropical climate of the Northland produces crops of avocado, tamarillo, orange, mandarin, olives, macadamia and kumara. Along with the Waikato and Wairarapa, its demands for workers never reach a great height but work exists all year round with March to August exhibiting the highest demand.

This calendar should give you a general idea of what kind of thing is happening when but it isn't the end of the story. The same fruits have slightly different seasons in different parts of the country and annual weather variations can also skew the customary calendar. So take the following as a guide while knowing that plenty more can be found which might not be mentioned here at all.

Only the principle crops are taken account of here – orchard fruits (including apples, pears, plums and cherries), grape growing vines for the wine industry and the soft summer fruits such as kiwis, strawberries and peaches – because typically speaking these will need the most workers. 

The Fruit Picking Seasons - SUMMER (December, January, February)

  • Low demand for workers in the Northland, Otago and Wairarapa
  • Medium demand for workers in Nelson and Waikato
  • High demand for workers in Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay and Marlborough 
  • Very high demand for workers – nowhere

Things start hotting up in the fruit picking world come December as the picking season for soft fruits starts. Cherry picking and grape harvesting will also start during this time as will the earlier apple and other orchard fruits harvests. The start of picking means the start of packing so there are tons of jobs around.

Demand is especially high in Hawke's Bay and the Bay of Plenty areas with their high numbers of orchard fruits and vast variety of fruit crops. Picking seasons generally will now run through to April at the earliest.

Work continues in the vineyards all over the country to add to the working possibilities.

The Fruit Picking Seasons - AUTUMN (March, April, May)

  • Low demand for workers in Waikato and Wairarapa
  • Medium demand for workers in the Northland
  • High demand for workers in Marlborough and Otago
  • Very high demand for workers in Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay and Nelson

It's all hands to the pump in autumn otherwise known as the season of harvests and during this time there are frantic measures to get all that wonderful produce out to shops, outlets and distributors.

With the picking in the orchards at full swing and most of the vineyards in the middle of their harvesting, you will have your pick of jobs during this time with 5 out of the 8 regions exhibiting high to extra high demand for workers. Sunny Nelson is full of apples and pears to be harvested while the produce-plentiful Hawke's Bay and aptly named Bay of Plenty are also putting out the call for a huge number of workers.


The Fruit Picking Seasons - WINTER (June, July, August)

  • Low demand for workers in Otago and Waikato
  • Medium demand for workers in Hawke's Bay, Nelson, the Northland and Wairarapa
  • High demand for workers in Marlborough
  • Very high demand for workers in the Bay of Plenty

The main picking seasons are all done now but you will still find pockets such as with the Otago vineyards.

This is maintenance time for both fruit producers and wine growers and pruning is one of the main tasks generally.

This can be a busy time for the wine growers so jobs are still easy to find around Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, the Wairarapa and especially Marlborough while the Bay of Plenty's kiwi industry and other growing markets are still in need of workers.


The Fruit Picking Seasons - SPRING (September, October and November)

  • Tends to be the quietest season over all
  • Low demand for workers in Northland and Wairarapa
  • Medium demand for workers in Marlborough, Nelson, Otago and Waikato
  • High demand for workers in Bay of Plenty and Hawke's Bay
  • Very high demand for workers – nowhere

Kinds of work available - September and October are relatively quiet months overall but pruning, shoot thinning and bud-rubbing is taking place in vineyards along with wire dropping, ready for the growing season.

This means demand for workers in the wine industry regions of Marlborough, Nelson, Otago and especially Hawke's Bay.

Kiwi fruit pruning is taking place and as the Bay of Plenty is the kiwi fruit capital of the world there is plenty of work here.

Find out more...

What you need to work - legally - Working Holiday Visa Overview
Seasonal Jobs Reclaim tax from working in New Zealand Seasonal Work for backpackers Backpacker seasonal work Self Containment certificate in Auckland
Most Read Articles
Converting overseas driving licence
Check out our guide to how you convert your driving licence to a NZ one.
Fruit Pick Your Way Around NZ
Travelling can be expensive so why not supplement your travels with a bit of seasonal fruit picking work
New Zealand's Best Festival & Events
Ahhh.....where to begin? There are hundred's to choose from but here are a few of our favourites...
NZ Best Beaches - North Island
You are spoilt for choice, but here are a few of our favourite spots.
New Zealand ID cards
Lucky enough to look under 25?! Then you might want to think about getting yourself one of these.
Auckland on a Budget
If you know where to look there are loads of cool things you can do and places to stay in Auckland that won't break the bank.
Unique Activities To Do - South Island
You are spoiled for choice when it comes to choosing the most spectacular, thrilling or awe-inspiring activities...but here are just a few of our favourites.
Rotorua on a Budget
If you are running low on travelling funds then check out our guide to grabbing a bargain in Rotorua.
Best Beaches - South Island
With so much amazing coastline on the South Island its always going to be hard to choose what the best beaches are, but here is our pick of them.
Unique Activities To Do - North Island
With so many activities on offer in the North Island it can be tricky choosing something truly memorable to do.