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New Zealand Travel Tips & Questions

What is it like to work on a fruit picking farm in NZ?

The term 'fruit-picking' is a generic industry term which encompasses not just work in fruit orchards but also vineyards, with vegetable crops and all associated roles involved. If one field of work could be said to be most popular with working holiday backpackers this is it. Benefits include stunning locations, flexibility, working in the sun and the opportunity to earn a good amount of money if you work hard.

Roles are incredibly varied requiring different levels of strength, endurance or skill and can widely be divided into indoor and outdoor categories. The majority of indoor jobs are in the packhouse which includes both physical roles (e.g. packing crates, moving crates) and non-manual (e.g. labelling, quality control). Other possibilities include office-based jobs and managerial posts. The range of outdoor roles is even wider. Picking is most obvious and might involve climbing ladders to get to fruit on trees or working at ground or standing level. Otherwise jobs include thinning fruit, pruning, driving tractors, crop monitoring, vine-training and maintenance jobs.

Daily working hours will vary depending on the time of year and the crop in question but are usually at least 8 hours per day. There may be days at a time where bad weather brings work to a halt. Some set-ups slot the workers into other roles at these times but many don't. Once work resumes it might be all hands-to-the-pump to catch up and the working hours expected of you adjusted accordingly. Where working weeks are concerned this again varies considerably but at times can be seven days a week.

For pickers piece-rate pay (a wage related to how much produce you pick) is common although law demands this must be at least equivalent to minimum wage. Those who consistently fall short of daily minimum quotas will not be kept on while those who work hard can earn a really decent amount. Otherwise rates are hourly fixed and range from minimum wage upwards.

Whether you find the work a stroll in the park or the hardest work you have ever done will depend on you, your fitness levels, your job role and the working conditions of the farm/vineyard you are working on.

It is quite common to be offered cheap and even free on-site accommodation along with your fruit-picking job and where this is the case you can expect something comfortable but basic. Rules may come as part of the deal such as quiet hours and no alcohol.