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How to Find a Working Holiday Job in New Zealand

Fern Leaves in New Zealand

On my working holiday in New Zealand, I worked as an assistant florist, an assistant film accountant, and a cherry picker. My fiance worked in assembly at an engineering company, a stocktaker for a clothing store, a driver for the film I was working on, and also a cherry picker.

It was a wild year where we got to try things we’ve always wanted to try, do things we were surprised by, learned from, and at the worst, just made some extra cash.

I really loved getting to explore myself in a bunch of different work places, and I really recommend a working holiday in New Zealand if you are unsure of your professional future (like me), or even if you’ve always known what you wanted to do but want to explore a little bit anyways (like my fiance).

Is It Hard to Find a Working Holiday Job in New Zealand?

It depends on a lot of factors. Things to consider are:

  • How picky are you? Do you have something very specific in mind, or will you take anything?
  • The season: many backpacker jobs are seasonal, and the time of year determines availability.
  • Are you flexible on location? Farm jobs and fruit picking jobs are often rural, so you have to be willing to go where the jobs are.

In my experience, if you’re willing to do anything, go anywhere, and travel to where the seasonal work is, finding a working holiday job in New Zealand is easy. If you’re set on a job, a location, and aren’t willing to move for seasonal work, it can be a bit harder.

In our situation, being picky in the beginning payed off: we got to live in a place without many other backpackers, and do interesting jobs that payed better than typical backpacker jobs. Those jobs took longer to find, however, and we were surprised by how easy it was to get the cherry picking jobs that we did later in the year.

What Jobs Am I Allowed On a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand?

You are allowed to work any temporary job on a working holiday visa in New Zealand. That doesn’t restrict you as much as it would seem. In addition to seasonal work that is by nature temporary, (farm work, fruit picking, ski field work…), a job in hospitality, retail, a restaurant, etc can be temporary. My film job was as an independent contractor, and my fiance worked through a temp agency at an engineering company.

Where To Look for a Working Holiday Job in New Zealand?

There are heaps of ways to find a working holiday job in New Zealand. Below I summarize the best ways that I personally used to find jobs, as well as other backpackers that I talked to.

Backpackerboard

Backpackerboard has lots of listings for backpacker jobs that range from farm work to hospitality to welding. There’s lots of options from all over the country, and I think this is a great place to start your search.

Facebook Groups

I’ve seen leads for jobs both on backpacker/traveler groups, as well as city specific facebook groups.

Most cities and towns in New Zealand will have a facebook group, where there are often job ads. We found our cherry picking jobs on the ‘Cromwell buy sell and trade’ facebook group. If you’re in the area, or have a specific town in mind, it’s a good idea to check out those groups.

Seek

Seek is an ’employment marketplace’ website in New Zealand and Australia. I found my assistant film accountant job on Seek.

This website is focused on all manner of jobs, not just backpacker jobs, so there’s a bit more sifting to be done here. This is a good option if you have any specific requirements in type of job or location, as the database is larger.

To make things easier, try narrowing your search down to ‘contract/temp’, or ‘casual/vacation’.

Trademe

Trademe is like New Zealand’s version of Craigslist, with people selling all manner of used things. There’s a good section for job listings, with all manner of permanent and temporary jobs.

Temp Agency

My fiance got his job doing assembly for an engineering company through a temp agency. This is a great option especially if you have some experience in a trade or office work. Since the temp agency vets and assesses you first, companies are sometimes more willing to hire you than if you just apply cold. The pay is often above minimum wage. In general, my fiance had a good experience working with them.

Industry Specific Websites

If you have experience in a specific field, check out industry specific websites. I don’t have personal experience with this, but I talked to someone who had museum work experience. He narrowed his search to New Zealand museums, and got a job in his industry through a website dedicated to New Zealand museums.

Go in Person

I got my assistant florist job by going in person to every single florist in Dunedin and asking if they’re hiring. I got a lot of no’s, but also one maybe, which I followed up on and got the job by offering to do my training for free.

I recommend doing this if there’s something new you really want to try, as long as you realize it’s a long shot. I didn’t have any experience in floristry, but I had the drive, determination, and professionalism that I could show in person. I brought a tailored resume that I gave to each prospective employer.

Many small businesses might be informally looking for someone, but not willing to pay the money to put an ad on Seek, so you could luck out.

Town Bulletin Boards

Small towns especially often have a bulletin board for announcements and ads, usually somewhere on the main street. I’ve seen job ads on these, so it’s worth it to have a look.

Yeah OK this is in Hobbiton, but you get the idea

Word of Mouth

You can often get good tips from backpackers who’ve already worked a couple jobs in New Zealand. Ask around in your hostels or at holiday parks and freedom camping spots.

WWOOF

If you aren’t desperate for cash, WWOOFing can be a great experience. WWOOF is a website for connecting organic farms with people willing to work for food and accommodation. We stayed at a farm while traveling that had WWOOF volunteers who were very happy with their experience so far. Although you don’t get cash money, the hours should be much less than typical farm work jobs, which could be a much more relaxing and balanced way to explore New Zealand.

Workaway

Similar to WWOOFing, Workaway is a work exchange website, dedicated to connecting people with opportunities to work in exchange for room and board. The work can be anything form childcare, house cleaning, family farms and gardens, and more. This can be a good way to get to know a local family and be integrated into Kiwi life.

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Do on a Working Holiday in New Zealand?

Although there are many jobs that are commonly available for backpackers, there’s also quite a lot of unique opportunities if you’re willing to think outside the box.

I really wanted an uncommon New Zealand working holiday experience that was different from the typical working holiday visa job. After I was satisfied with my unique experience, however, I wanted to experience the classic backpacker type job. There are pros and cons to each, and I was really glad to have had both experiences.

Try Something New

A New Zealand working holiday is a great place and time to try something new. Whether it’s something you’ve always wanted to try, or something you’re curious or intrigued about, I really recommend you give it a shot.

For example, I’ve always wanted to try floristry. As I talked about above, I went to every florist in Dunedin to see if they would hire me without prior work experience. Although most said no, I only needed one yes!

In my experience, and the experience of other travelers I talked to, New Zealanders are much more willing to give someone a chance at something they don’t have experience in if they demonstrate that they are willing to learn and work hard.

Fruit Picking

Fruit picking is one of the most commonly available jobs for backpackers. It’s seasonal work that is by nature temporary, and thus perfect for people on a working holiday visa.

It’s really hard, physical labour, that usually pays about minimum wage. There’s usually a lot of work in a short amount of time (a month or two), and then the respective fruit season, and the job, is over.

I go more more in depth on when the different fruit seasons in New Zealand are, with a New Zealand fruit picking season chart, as well as maps of where the orchards are, in my another blog post.

I worked as a cherry picker, so I can talk about cherry picking from experience. It was really hard, physical work. The first week we went to Subway for dinner every night because I didn’t have the energy to cook, after which I’d come home, shower, and crash into bed. You get used to it eventually, and towards the end I’d make nice dinners and hang out with friends in the evening.

The pros of fruit picking jobs:

  • It’s a really fun, social environment, where you can make a lot of friends. The physical labor really bonds you, and often there’s a camp where you all live together.
  • Fruit picking jobs are really easy to get: in my experience they take everyone because the demand is high when all the fruit is ripening all at once.
  • It’s a really low commitment: there’s nothing stopping you from quitting after a week if you absolutely hate it. By our contract, we had to give two days notice.
  • The short term contract gives you the time and resources to travel and see the country in between jobs.
The camp where we lived

The cons of fruit picking jobs:

  • The supervisors on jobs like these usually have no experience with managing people: many of them are pretty average, which affects your work experience.
  • The season greatly affects your earning potential. The 2019 cherry season royally sucked, so we had days with no work, and also days where we just threw spoiled produce on the ground.
  • Some people like being payed per bucket, but I didn’t like the system. You get minimum wage no matter what, but there’s a price per bucket, so technically you can make above minimum wage if you are a fast picker. Maybe it’s because my cherry season was terrible, but it was incredibly hard to make above minimum wage, and the bucket system also made every day more stressful. You never had the satisfaction of a job well done, because there was always pressure to do more.
  • A fruit picking company grows from something like 5 people to maybe 500 in a couple of weeks. As you can imagine, this creates many issues with management, organization, and communication

Farm Work

There are many farm jobs available, depending on the season. Common are jobs in the dairy industry, especially during calving season. These are hard jobs with long hours that often start at four in the morning, and involve manual, physical labor. I’ve talked to backpackers who enjoyed the work, however, and learned a lot about farms and agriculture.

Horticulture (Orchard and Vineyard)

New Zealand has a big wine industry, and wineries often have seasonal jobs that need to be done. These include pruning, fruit picking, and packing and other warehouse jobs.

Ski Field

A common backpacker job in the winter is ski field work. These are also temporary by nature, and thus perfect for a working holiday visa job. Similar to fruit picking jobs, these jobs are fun, social experiences, that are a great place to make friends.

Food and Beverage

You can work in restaurants, cafes, bakeries, and bars. Many parts of New Zealand see a huge surge of people during touristy times of the year (usually summer, but also winter for ski destinations). It’ll be much easier to find a job like this right before peak tourist season, but they are available year round.

Grocery Stores

Grocery stores often need people to stock their shelves. I talked to some backpackers who loved their grocery store jobs in Wanaka: they worked in the evenings, which enabled them to go climbing in the mornings.

Retail

Any kind of shop could be hiring people to work the till, stock their shelves, or help their customers find what they need. Like many of these jobs, right before tourist season is a great time to get one of these jobs, especially in tourist hot spots where businesses experience a boom at certain times of the year.

Hostel Work

Hostels are often looking for employees to work the front desk and to clean the rooms. These jobs often come with lodging, although the hostel costs are taken out of your earnings.

Holiday Parks

Holiday parks are like fancy New Zealand campgrounds for people with tents, campervans, or self contained cars. Holiday parks we stayed at were often looking for people to clean the bathrooms and kitchens, or to work the front desk. Similar to hostel work, the cost to live there is taken out of your earnings.

Van at Fox Glacier Holiday Park, New Zealand
Our van at Fox Glacier Holiday Park, New Zealand

Au Pair

Au pair work is being a live-in nanny to a family with children. Your room and board are included, and thus are taken out of your salary. I talked to a couple of au pairs who worked in Wellington, and they said that they don’t necessarily recommend it. It’s extremely hard to save any money because your salary is so small. There could, of course, be other opinions and experiences, I only talked to two.

Should I Find a Job or a Place to Live First?

We’ve tried both, and there are pros and cons to each method!

When we first arrived in New Zealand, we wanted to live in a place where there aren’t many other backpackers. We wanted to work jobs with Kiwi employers and coworkers, and we chose Dunedin as our location of choice. When we got to Dunedin, we found a place to live on the Otago Peninsula, and then began our job search. (Quick plug for my favorite place in New Zealand: go read my guide to the best things to do on the Otago Peninsula)

Otago Peninsula, where we lived for 3 months!

It was really difficult to find a job for the winter in a place with no significant winter tourism or backpacker community. Although I got my part time florist job right away, it took me weeks to get my full time assistant film accountant job. My fiance worked a couple of one day jobs before finding his full time assembly job after about a month. That’s a significant amount of time without an income in a foreign country.

That said, the jobs we ended up doing were much more interesting than typical backpacker jobs, and are things we’d put on our resumes when job searching back home. They payed much better too, so we were able to make up some of the searching time. In the end, although the search was a bit of heartache, it ended up being an experience that I now treasure.

For our cherry picking jobs, we applied to them when we were a couple hours drive away, and only moved down to Cromwell when they accepted our applications. Finding the job first, and being willing to move for the job, made the job finding process so so so easy.

Finding a job first means that you’re willing to move for the season, and perhaps do a job that is seasonally in demand. It can also mean that you’re willing to live in a more rural location, which is often where the farm work is. If you need a job right away, or want a social backpacker experience, I would definitely recommend finding a job first, and then a place to live.

In Conclusion

Some other good reads for help with your working holiday in New Zealand are my guide to the New Zealand working holiday visa, as well as my guide to buying a van in New Zealand. Both have lots of information and tips to make the most of your New Zealand working holiday.

Finding a working holiday job in New Zealand can be what you make of it. You can work temporary backpacker jobs, move around, see the country, and make lots of friends from all over the world. You can also get a job you enjoy and deeply get to know your own little corner of New Zealand. Or whatever combination of those that you want.

I learned so much about myself by trying jobs that were completely new to me, that were creative, technical, and physical. Hopefully I’ve given you a head start so you know where to start your search, and some cool ideas for things you might want to try.

More Hobbiton, just beacuse!

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