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Work in New Zealand

Seasonal Jobs are Plentiful, But Difficult

Fruitpicking had not been foremost on my agenda when I arrived on New Zealand. However, the fruit industry employs thousands of seasonal workers every year, and many hostels in fruit-growing regions are willing to help travelers find work.

Having tried raspberry picking some years earlier I knew that I had neither the speed nor the enthusiasm for picking fruit. But by asking around my friend and I discovered another option: in nearby Hastings there were packing houses where, our hostel owner informed us, we could easily get work. The advantage of this type of employment was that it paid an hourly wage, and while pitifully low it was guaranteed and not dependent on performance. In addition, the work was indoors so bad weather could not bring our employment to a frustrating halt.

From long conveyor belts the apples dropped from a chute into cardboard trays. Our task was to check each apple thoroughly, placing rejects onto a second conveyor belt running level with our heads. It sounded easy. Yet we were in for a shock.

The conveyor belts would fly along at lightening speed (even faster if the foreman was in a bad mood). Checking each individual apple was impossible. Boxes were randomly checked and if a box contained too many defects you would be classed as “out of grade.” Continue in this fashion and you would be out of work.

The worse part of the job was the unyielding, grinding monotony. Conversation was limited as a surprisingly large amount of concentration was required to keep up to speed with the conveyor belts. Our only entertainment came from the radio, an endlessly repeating burble of pop which grated on the nerves and did little to drown out the endless whirl and click of the conveyor belts.

We had wanted to integrate ourselves into the local culture and here was our opportunity. We were the only white faces amongst a sea of Maori women. Many had families to support, something that seemed impossible on such a meagre wage. A large proportion were elderly with wizened faces and missing teeth.

Some had worked in this packing house for many years, and the speed at which they checked each apple and the accuracy they maintained was phenomenal. Our dedication was not so great. We lasted 10 days.

For More Info

Work in the New Zealand fruit industry is year-round, although the majority of jobs are available between December and May. The Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, and Nelson on the South Island are major production regions.

Useful websites for jobs in New Zealand include:

www.seasonalwork.co.nz (job listings by region).

www.hortnz.co.nz (information on the types of jobs available; contact numbers of employment coordinators within major production regions; details on backpackers' hostels within fruitpicking areas).

www.hbfruitgrowers.co.nz (information site for the Hawke’s Bay region; job listings, and contact information).

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