On my working holiday in New Zealand, I worked as a cherry picker around the Cromwell area. Fruit picking is one of the most common jobs for backpackers on a working holiday visa in New Zealand.
These jobs are seasonal, so the demand for workers goes up a huge amount during peak harvesting times. Those times vary depending on the fruit and the location of the farms or orchards.
The purpose of this post is to make it clear and simple to find out when the fruit picking seasons are in New Zealand, and where you should go to find a picking job. You’ll see that most of the demand for fruit pickers is in the summer and fall. You’ll also see that although there are farms all over the country, many fruits have one or two central areas where the orchards or farms are concentrated.
I wanted to make it easy to check what fruit is in season, and where to go to get a picking job. Read on for information on where and when the fruit picking seasonal jobs are for some of the most abundant fruits in New Zealand.
New Zealand Fruit Picking Season Chart
The chart above shows many of the fruits that are grown in New Zealand, with their respective harvesting seasons. The darker orange represents peak harvest time for each of the fruits represented, while the lighter orange represents the shoulder season, where work is starting to ramp up or diminish. (Sources for the information above: 1, 2, 3)
The fruits are organized roughly by the size of their industry in New Zealand. About 80% of the horticulture exports come from just kiwis, wine, and apples (source). Avocados and cherries, although much smaller than the top three exports, are each larger than the rest of the fruits combined. This is a very rough but useful way of looking at the industry, because the number of picking jobs will roughly correlate with the size of each fruit industry.
As you can see, most of the fruit picking jobs are in the summer and fall, with exceptions for citrus fruit, which is grown in the ‘winterless north’.
Kiwi Picking in New Zealand
Kiwis are largest exported fruit from New Zealand by far. The industry is huge, so there are many picking jobs available. Kiwi picking season usually runs from mid March to the end of May or June.
I don’t personally have experience with picking kiwis, but beware if you’re tall! The vines can be grown a bit short, and constantly bending over to pick the fruit can injure your back. (I’ve heard be careful if you’re above 5’8″ or 173 cm).
Where are the Kiwi Picking Jobs?
The epicenter of Kiwi orchards is Te Puke, on the Bay of Plenty on the North Island. This beautiful coastal area is one of the warmest parts of New Zealand.
Wine Grape Picking in New Zealand
New Zealand has a big wine industry, and wine is the second largest horticulture export following kiwis. Wine grape harvest season in New Zealand is February through April.
Where are the Wine Grape Picking Jobs?
There are 11 main wine regions in New Zealand, scattered across both islands. Marlborough, on the north tip of the South Island, is the largest region.
The wine regions on the North Island are Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Wairarapa, Hawke’s Bay, and Gisborne.
The wine regions on the South Island are Marlborough, Nelson, Waipara Valley/Canterbury, and Central Otago.
Apple Picking in New Zealand
Apples are the third largest export in New Zealand. Apple picking season in New Zealand is in the fall: mid February through mid May.
I’ve heard that apple picking jobs are physically very hard: the apples are heavy, and the tall ladders you have to carry from tree to tree are even heavier. On the other hand, there’s not as much hunching and bending over as with kiwi picking jobs.
Where are the Apple Picking Jobs?
Most of the apple picking jobs are concentrated in Hawke’s Bay, with a second hub of orchards around the Nelson area.
Pear Picking Jobs in New Zealand
I’m going to put pear picking under the apple picking section because they have very similar parameters. Pears peak in the fall as well: pear picking season peaks April through May. You can find a pear picking job in Hawke’s Bay and the Nelson area.
Avocado Picking in New Zealand
Avocados are New Zealand’s fourth biggest horticultural export, and thus there are a good number of avocado picking jobs available. Avocado picking season in New Zealand is September through April.
Where are the Avocado Picking Jobs?
Avocados like the warmth, and thus are grown in warm places. Most of the avocado farms are concentrated in Northland and the Bay of Plenty.
Cherry Picking in New Zealand
My fiance and I worked as cherry pickers around the Cromwell area during our year in New Zealand on a working holiday visa.
Cherry picking season in New Zealand is in the summertime: it starts in mid December and goes through early to mid February.
I talk more about the pros and cons of our cherry picking jobs here.
Where are the Cherry Picking Jobs?
Most of the cherry orchards are concentrated around the Cromwell area. This is a dry climate in Central Otago, and the farthest place in New Zealand from the ocean. You’re relatively close to both Wanaka and Queenstown, and the Southern Alps are a good weekend trip away.
Stone Fruit Picking in New Zealand
Stone fruit refers to anything with a large pit: nectarines, peaches, apricots, and plums. These fruits are also referred to as summerfruit, giving you a hint to the harvest season. Stone fruit picking season peaks January through February.
Where are the Stone Fruit Picking Jobs?
Most of the nectarine, peach, apricot, and plum orchards are concentrated in Central Otago and Hawke’s Bay.
Berry Picking in New Zealand
You can find strawberry, blueberry, raspberry, and blackcurrant farms in New Zealand. Berries ripen in the summer, so peak picking season will be January through February.
Where are the Berry Picking Jobs in New Zealand?
You can find strawberry farms in the Auckland area, blueberry farms in Waikato and Bay of Plenty, raspberry farms in the Nelson area, and blackcurrant farms primarily in Canterbury and Nelson.
Citrus Fruit Picking in New Zealand
Citrus fruit picking jobs include oranges, mandarins, lemons, and grapefruit. Citrus fruit picking jobs are mostly in the winter, and peak in August.
Where are the citrus fruit picking jobs in New Zealand?
New Zealand citrus fruit include oranges, mandarins, lemons, and grapefruit. Most of the citrus fruit picking jobs can be found in Northland, Bay of Plenty, and Gisborne.
Feijoa Picking in New Zealand
This isn’t a huge market, but I included it because I LOVE this aromatic green fruit, and it’s very popular in New Zealand. You should definitely at least try it if you’re traveling around New Zealand during feijoa harvest time in the fall, peaking in April through May.
Like many other fruits, you can find feijoa fruit picking jobs in the Bay of Plenty.
Finding a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand
Hopefully you can now easily tell where and when the different fruits orchards of New Zealand need pickers, so you can optimize your job search. Keep in mind that many of these orchards are also looking for packers to work in the fruit packing house, as well as pruners in the off season.
For more information on finding a fruit picking job in New Zealand, as well as other ideas of jobs you can get in New Zealand, please refer to my blog post on How to Find a Working Holiday Job in New Zealand.
For general information about the working holiday visa, as well as all the logistics you need to do before you can get a job, you can check out my guide to the New Zealand working holiday visa.