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Travellers Backpacker

Working In New Zealand

Most who have been before you on the working holiday circuit will tell you there is no better way to see a country as it really is and from a totally different angle than by working there. Suddenly you are a part of your surroundings instead of just a tourist observing from the outside.

New Zealand is an incredible country. It is crammed with the beautiful and filled to the brim with all kinds of opportunity for fun and adventure – here you can explore fascinating Maori culture, hike in the wilderness, swim with wild dolphins, sand surf giant dunes, pick from a mind-boggling menu of adrenalin activities or simply soak up the rays on stunning beaches. And that's just a sampler of all that the twin islands of this country have to offer.

Little wonder then that New Zealand attracts thousands of visitors each year and has now become a well-established stop on the gap year and round-the-world circuits. It is also becoming increasingly popular as a work holiday destination.

Working holidays mean different things to different people. For some it is a way to prolong the adventure by topping up funds; for others it is a way to learn new skills or gain some work experience; perhaps the motivation is to add some spice to a CV. Then there is a whole bunch of travelling folk who do it purely for the fun of it. Shaking cocktails in a hip Auckland bar, learning to shear sheep or milk cows way down points for spotting the fun-factor there.

What You Will Need

  • Visa - In order to work in New Zealand you must have a valid visa under the Working Holiday Scheme. Besides paid work, a Working Holiday Visa is also required if you undertake any type of work for which you receive benefits in kind too which might come in the form of free food, accommodation, work clothes and so forth.

Eligibility for this visa, for 18 – 30 year olds, is based on your country of origin and additionally you must fulfil certain requirements. Furthermore work must be your secondary and not your main purpose of visiting the country. Check out to see exactly who is eligible and how to apply.

  • New Zealand bank account - As of October 2015, working visitors require a fully functional New Zealand bank account before they can apply for an IRD number (see below for a further explanation of what this is).

The regulations regarding what is and isn't an acceptable bank account are strict but the Inland Revenue Department have produced an information sheet to help you get it right first time. The full title of this information sheet is 'IR984 Documents to confirm your New Zealand bank account is fully functional'.

  • IRD (Inland Revenue Department) number – If you don't obain an IRD number before you start looking for work you will find yourself giving away an enormous chunk of your hard-earned cash to pay the 48% emergency tax rate.

There are four basic steps to follow to obain this all important number to which all your tax and personal details are linked. The recommendation is that you begin this process as soon as you possibly can rather than wait until you have work.

  1. Obtain a bank account as explained above
  2. If you have a Working Holiday Visa you will need to complete form 'IR742IRD' which is the IRD number application form.
  3. You will need various documents to support your IRD number application which are:
    • a copy of your passport information page (the one where your photo is)
    • something which proves your current or last address which can be bills, bank statements or driver's licence
    • something which shows your tax number from any previous work – if applicable
    • your work visa or proof of a current job offer
    • proof that your NZ bank account meets all the criteria as set out on information sheet IR984 as explained previously
  4. Submit your IRD number application by post to the address advised on the application form.

What Kind of Work is There?

The quick answer – all sorts and maybe even a few things you might never have imagined. However there are a few areas in which the majority of working holiday folk end up which are;

Fruit picking and packing – the bonuses are a great tan and the chance to meet a whole bunch of other like-minded travellers. Although it can be extremely hard work this kind of gig is super popular because it is typically undertaken on a casual basis which allows you more flexibility in your schedule. Unlike Australia, which pretty much always has some type of crop growing somewhere, the fruit picking seasons in New Zealand are limited and specific.

Tourism and hostel work – high summer season – December to February - sees the arrival of tourists by the plane-load so there are always plenty of jobs floating around during this time in the tourist sector. Hostel jobs are sometimes rewarded with free accommodation and food rather than a wage but as previously explained you would still need a working visa for this.

Bar and restaurant work – available just about everywhere in New Zealand but of course concentrated more in the cities and with extra staff needed during high season.

Clerical and office work – typically only available in the towns and cities, this kind of work is best unearthed through recruitment agencies.

Au Pair work - a great option if you want the security and comfort of a family type environment. Au Pair work for international backpackers is very common in New Zealand and so there is always plenty of opportunities both in cities and in more rural locations. Generally these type of roles are offered with accommodation, food, use of  car and pocket money.

Farm and dairy work - obviously based in more rural areas, there are loads of opportunities for working on farms undertaking work such as helping rear calves, horse grooming, milking dairy cows etc as well as general tidying work. 

Willing Workers Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) – the principal here is that for a few hours work each day you will receive food and accommodation in return

FHiNZ (Farm Helpers in New Zealand) – the same principle as the WWOOF scheme but specific to New Zealand

Remember, despite the no money changing hands element, you will still need a Working Holiday Visa. 

So if your beer money is severely reduced and in need of topping up, or if you just fancy staying put for a few weeks and experiencing a different side to New Zealand, then there will be a job for you. Check out the BBNZ Jobs Board - which has hundreds of jobs added each week so there is always something for everyone..

Seasonal Jobs Reclaim tax from working in New Zealand Seasonal Work for backpackers Backpacker seasonal work Self Containment certificate in Auckland
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