If you aren’t a New Zealand citizen or migrant, it’s important to make sure that you’re eligible to work in New Zealand on a casual basis before you arrive. Most nationalities (with the exception of Australians who may work in New Zealand under the ‘ Closer Economic Relations’ agreement) aren’t permitted to work in New Zealand, at least not without wading through a mountain of red tape.
There are special working holiday schemes available for young people from many countries, including Canada, Chile, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Singapore, Sweden and the UK, under which you’re entitled to look for seasonal, temporary and casual employment.
Students from the USA can spend up to six months working in New Zealand under the ‘Work in New Zealand Program’ operated by the Council On International Educational Exchange (CIEE, 7, Custom House Street, 3rd Floor, Portland, ME 04101 (Tel. 1-800-40-STUDY, www.ciee.org). Other nationalities can obtain visas for temporary jobs only if there’s no New Zealander or permanent migrant available to do a job.
If you’re seeking a casual or seasonal job, you should be prepared to be persistent and compete with the local casual labour force. Many jobs of this kind are the preserve of Pacific Islanders, particularly Samoans and Pitcairn Islanders, whom the New Zealand authorities allow to look for work in recognition of the fact that there are precious few job opportunities in the Pacific Islands (most countries have a source of cheap labour and New Zealand is no exception). These migrants tend to be at the bottom of the jobs heap and are willing to do almost anything for almost any wage. Opportunities for temporary, casual and seasonal jobs include the following:
New Zealand attracts tourists all year round, particularly during the summer (November to March), with a tourist boom over the Christmas and New Year period. Jobs are available in shops, at tourist attractions, and on boats and beaches throughout the country during these periods. For the rest of the year, the tourist industry centres mainly around skiing, when Queenstown in the South Island is the busiest resort.
Hotels & Catering
Hotels, motels, lodges, restaurants and bars normally require barmen and barmaids, chambermaids, handymen, receptionists, and waiters and waitresses throughout the year.
Employment agencies usually have vacancies. If you want to go it alone, there’s nothing to stop you approaching hotels and restaurants directly, although it’s wise to telephone and ask about vacancies before travelling to the back of beyond looking for work.
There are thousands of farms of all sizes throughout New Zealand requiring temporary labour, particularly during busy periods such as harvest times or sheep-shearing. Available work ranges from skilled jobs such as cattle herding and sheep shearing to unskilled tasks such as apple and grape picking. The work is likely to be hard and the hours long, but in addition to wages (around $375 per week, unless you’re paid a ‘piece’ rate according to how much produce you pick) you may receive free accommodation and food (all the lamb and kiwi fruit you can eat!).
Good places for fruit picking include Blenheim, the Christchurch area, Gisborne, Kerikeri, Motueka, Nelson, Otago, Tauranga, Te Puke and the Wairu Valley. The soft fruit picking season (apples, grapes, peaches, strawberries and – need we say – kiwi fruit) starts in December and lasts until April or May.
You don’t need to go far to find a sheep farm (sheep station) in New Zealand, but the far north-east and south of the North Island, and the Otago and Canterbury regions of the South Island are the main centres for this industry. Vacancies for farm work are sometimes advertised on notice boards in local hostels.
If you think you would enjoy the experience of working on an organic farm (low or no pay, but free accommodation and plenty of organic food), an organisation called Willing Workers On Organic Farms (WWOOF, PO Box 1172, Nelson, Tel. 03-544 9890, www.wwoof.co.nz) can arrange placements on around 800 farms throughout New Zealand (a fee is charged for the list of members).
The main farming concern is Fonterra Co-operative Group (www.fonterra.com), New Zealand’s largest company and the world’s largest exporter of dairy products. A useful publication for job-seekers is the NZ Dairy Exporter Magazine, which advertises farming vacancies.
Some employment agencies specialise in temporary and casual job vacancies in offices in most parts of the country, although principally in Auckland and Wellington. It’s obviously an advantage if you have some experience; if you have a qualification in a profession such as accountancy, banking, finance, insurance or law, you could walk into a well-paid job, as these industries frequently have short-term staff shortages. Hundreds of New Zealand professionals leave the country each year to spend 6 or 12 months working in Australia or the UK or make the 'obligatory' overseas tour, and qualified replacements are required to fill the vacancies.
As in most countries, casual jobs are often available in factories and warehouses such as cleaning, driving, labouring, portering and security work. Particularly numerous are casual, seasonal and temporary jobs in some of the massive plants that process and pack dairy products, fish, fruit, meat and vegetables.
This kind of work is notoriously unreliable, and plants that may be working flat out one week stand idle the next, e.g. when there’s a slump in the market or the season is over. Jobs of this kind can be found through employment agencies, in local newspapers or simply by turning up at the factory gate (very early!).
A number of books are available for those seeking holiday jobs, including Summer Jobs Abroad by David Woodworth and Work Your Way Around The World by Susan Griffith (both published by Vacation Work).