Note: Everything said here is true about Australia also, but I’ve never been to Australia, and this is a New Zealand blog. So I don’t talk about Australia.
New Zealand has an interesting option available to international travellers under the age of 30 to help them live, work and play in the country for a year or longer. I’m talking about the temporary work visa, but temporary work visas aren’t unique to New Zealand. You can get a temporary work visa to most countries. The problem is finding a job once you get there. Job hunting in a country you don’t know anything about is an intimidating task especially if you’re doing it while going through the throws of culture shock. If you’re dedicated and resourceful you can work in pretty much any country, but most people don’t have the world traveling experience and grit to navigate all the obstacles to working in a foreign country.
New Zealand offers an easy way to sidestep most of the hassle of finding temporary work: by doing seasonal farm work. You don’t need experience or a resume to do most seasonal farm work. You don’t need an interview, and you don’t have to comb through the classifieds section of the Sunday paper to find job vacancies. There are job boards you can access on the internet that will help you find work, and some of them may require resumes, but these jobs boards are pretty easy to use:
The absolute easiest way to find seasonal work in New Zealand though is by staying at a working backpacker hostel, and there’s a lot of good reasons to stay at these places anyway. Firstly, they’re cheap, costing between $15-$40 per night or $100-$160 per week, and there are often discounts for paying by the month or having a BBH club card. Since most of the other guests are travelers you get to meet people from all over the world, and since you’ll be staying there working for weeks or months you have plenty of time to make close friends you may keep for the rest of your life. It’s not uncommon for backpackers to make new friends and then end up traveling all over the country with them. Some even pair up to travel to other countries. It’s also worth mentioning that a lot of them have sex, and some of them get married.
None of that would be possible if the hostels didn’t find their guests jobs. The way they find work for their guests is by building working relationships with the contractors and farmers in their local area. So when farms need workers they call the hostel to recruit workers or the hostel will go through their Rolodex and call every farmer within 50 miles until they find work for their guests. But the guests don’t care how they get a job. All they have to do is check in, let the manager know they’re looking for work and wait for a job to fall in their lap. Before you can start work though you’ll need a copy of your passport, valid temporary work visa, I.R.D. number and a New Zealand bank account. If you’re missing any of those documents the hostel manager should be able to help you get them.
Below is a list of working backpacker hostels in New Zealand. If anyone knows of any that are missing from this list feel free to leave a comment.
Hawkes Bay Region
The Rotten Apple
Hone Heke Lodge
Kiwi Bunk House
Harbourside City Backpackers
Hairy Berry Backpacker
Just the Ducks Nuts
Depending on the region these hostels can help you find work picking apples, grapes, peaches, plums, pears, cherries, kiwi fruit and blue berries. The work is hard. It will make your body hurt, but it will make you grow as a person, and it’ll teach you the value of a hard day’s work. If you’re not physically fit you can try to find work in a pack house where you just stand at a conveyor belt and sort/pack all the fruit your mates picked in the orchards. Sometimes you can also find work in wine factories doing things like putting labels on bottles.
Some of these jobs pay minimum wage, and some of them pay “by contract,” which means you get paid by how many bins you fill with fruit or by how many plants you clear. Farmers will tell you that you can make up to $200 per day on contract, but that’s assumes you’re in peak physical condition and there’s plenty of fruit in the orchards/vineyards. It does happen, but as a general rule $120 per day is a more realistic average. If you make less than minimum wage you’re still supposed to get paid minimum wage, but your farmer probably won’t give minimum wage to a contract worker unless you report them to the labor department.
If you find yourself working for a dishonest farmer you can always just quit and go work somewhere else. Since seasonal employers don’t ask for resumes they won’t care why you left your last job. They’ll just be glad you have fruit picking experience. Once you’ve worked and played in one region of New Zealand for a few months you can move to another region, do more work and save your money until you’re ready to spend a few months traveling around New Zealand with the backpackers you’ve met along the way.
Doing seasonal work in New Zealand is a wild experience, but be aware that you can only get one temporary work visa to New Zealand (though you can extend your work visa a few months). If you want to get your permanent residency in New Zealand you’ll have to secure a job. You can’t secure a job without a work visa. If you’ve already used your temporary work visa doing seasonal work you won’t be able to use it to find a permanent job when you go for your permanent residency. So be aware of that.
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