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Middle Earth. The Land of the Long White Cloud. There are a wealth of reasons to make the trip to New Zealand, not least its cool nicknames. Because New Zealand is seemingly located at the end of the earth, many visitors, particularly those aged 18-30, decide to stay a little longer. Excitement, beauty and a generous working holiday program combine to make it an enticing destination for young backpackers eager to see what the country is all about.

In this article we'll take a closer look at the New Zealand working holiday program, and find out exactly how a working holidaymaker can go about securing a job, particularly farm work.

Working holiday visa in New Zealand

The New Zealand working holiday visa program offers 12 month visas to the 18-30 year old residents of 45 different countries (with a handful of nationalities eligible for 23 months, up until the age of 35). Visa holders are able to work for the entire 12 months, or study/ train for six of the 12. You can read more about the specifics of the working holiday visa on the New Zealand Immigration website.

The visa is quite flexible, but the major restriction is that you can't work in a permanent job. This makes temporary, casual and seasonal farm work a popular choice amongst backpackers.

The pros and cons of farm work in New Zealand

But should you choose an agricultural job while you're in New Zealand? As with all decisions there are pros and cons to consider, so let's take a look at both the good and the bad of New Zealand farm work.

Pros:

  • Enjoy a uniquely New Zealand experience
  • Live and work surrounded by the country's natural beauty
  • Learn new skills
  • Work outdoors in the fresh country air
  • The work may involve animals

Cons

  • Early mornings, long days and physical work
  • Work in relative isolation
  • Limited access to fun and amenities
  • The work may involve animals

Types of New Zealand farm work

The term 'farm work' covers a wide range of industries and activities. New Zealand has a number of different agricultural sectors, each of which offers working holidaymakers a unique experience. There are three main types of farm work on offer in New Zealand:

1. Fruit picking & Harvesting

New Zealand's temperate climate is ideal for growing a wide variety of fruit and vegetables. From the subtropical conditions in the north to the cool and seasonal south, everything from avocados to zucchinis are grown here.

Fruit and vegetables are picked all year round, although the bulk of produce ripens in the summer months, so January to March is a particularly busy time. Certain fruits and vegetables can be picked mechanically, but a large percentage are still picked by hand, making fruit picking almost a rite of passage for backpackers in New Zealand.

2. Livestock & Dairy farming

The green pastures of New Zealand provide the perfect fodder for cows, sheep, goats and other animals, so New Zealand is home to a particularly strong dairy and livestock industry.

Dairy and livestock farming is a labour-intensive endeavour, so working holidaymakers are commonly called upon to help local farmers manage their herds.

3. Permaculture & Hobby farms

Produce and livestock farms aside, a new breed of agriculture is taking New Zealand by storm. Permaculture and hobby farms are generally far smaller than their more traditional cousins, and can offer working holidaymakers a more intimate and wide-ranging experience.

Because these types of farms aren't often run for the sole purpose of generating profit, the pay may not be quite as good as on a regular farm. The fun and learnings can more than make up for that though!

Farm Jobs New Zealand

How to find a farm job?

Now that you've got an idea of the type of work that you might be interested in, it's time to hunt for a job. But where should you look?

Facebook groups

Facebook groups are a great place to start. If you join purpose-built groups you'll be kept up to date with where the work is and who's offering it, and will be able to trade information with fellow backpackers. Some particularly useful groups include:

Backpacker Job Board NZ

Australasia's leading marketplace for working holidaymakers, you can browse backpacker-specific jobs in your area, and apply for free. Backpacker Job Board brings a bit of safety and structure to the job hunting process - you can be confident that you're dealing with a legitimate business, and that the job will be as it appears in the ad. It's a simple and secure way to find a farm job.

Visit Backpacker Job Board NZ

Seek.co.nz

While not backpacker-specific, Seek is New Zealand's number one job hunting site, and generally has plenty of part time and casual farm jobs open at any one time.

Visit Seek.co.nz

Contact farms direct

A more old-fashioned and direct option, some working holidaymakers simply call up farmers in an area to see whether they have work available. While perfectly personal and full of initiative, this is also a somewhat risky strategy, as you don't really know what you're getting into. It's always wise to have a personal referral at the very least.

Preparing yourself for your farm work

You've found a job. Congratulations! The final step of the process is to ensure you're ready for work, by shopping for any clothing and equipment that you might need. It's wise to speak to your employer to check:

  1. The clothing and equipment you need for the work, and
  2. Which pieces will and won't be supplied.

Before work commences, you may need to fit yourself out with the following:

  • Fruit picking: Wide brim hat, long sleeve shirt, sunscreen, comfortable enclosed footwear, gloves.
  • Dairy farming: Gumboots, work boots, overalls, wide brim hat, work shirt, sunscreen, suitable gloves.

New Zealand is an incredible place, and by working on a farm you'll get to experience the country the way the locals do.

So what are you waiting for? The Land of the Long White Cloud is ready when you are!


A Backpackers' Guide to Finding Farm Work in New Zealand
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