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Fruit Picking in New Zealand
When you head off on a backpacking adventure to New Zealand you envision things like skydiving, white water rafting, kiwi spotting, trekking and just generally enjoying the country for all it has to offer. One thing that was not on my list of to do's was spending 10 hours a day in the rain carting 20 kilo bags of apples up and down ladders! But the sad truth is, if you intend on earning some money in New Zealand, you might have to do some nasty jobs.

While picking apples might not seem like an ideal way to spend your time in New Zealand, it can't be denied that it can be a very good money earner if you're willing to work hard. I was based in Hastings, a town of about 20,000 people in the Hawkes Bay region. If you hit it at the right time of year, jobs are plentiful and there are rarely enough workers to fill the positions, so you'll have your pick (no pun intended).

I worked on several farms picking apples, peaches and pears. A typical day would start at about 8am and finish around 5pm. Most work is on a contract basis meaning you are paid for what you pick. If I worked really hard and had trees with big red apples then it wasn't unrealistic to expect to pick 5 bins per day. At $28-$30 per bin, there was potential to make a lot of money!

Unfortunately, every good day for me seemed to be followed by two bad days where the fruit was small and the wrong colour and where it rained! On days like these I would be lucky to pick three bins... if I even bothered to go into work at all.

I worked on one farm for about 3 weeks which paid an hourly wage. We worked 8 hours a day with an unpaid 30 minute lunch break and two 15 minute breaks where they provided tea, coffee and homemage cakes! We were paid $11.50/hour and the work was pretty relaxing and the bosses nice.

Jobs and farms vary greatly and it's no uncommon to see people jumping from farm to farm in the hopes of getting better fruit somewhere else. You really are at the mercy of the crop, so if it's a bad year you might not make much, but in a good year you have the potential to earn loads.

Though the work sucks, the life in your hostel can be lively and fun if you have the right mix of people. I stayed at Hastings Backpackers which is probably the best place to stay in town, despite it's boring name. Brigit, the manager, will do her best to find you work and organise rides for everyone. It was rare to find people who weren't working, although if you go during a slow period you might find yourself waiting a while for a job.

So all in all, picking fruit in New Zealand is pretty shit. I didn't make much money but I made some good mates at the hostels, saved about $1500 in 7 weeks, and felt like I definately earned my money!

By: Kirsty Henderson
March 2005

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Apple Orchard - Australia - Canada - Europe - New Zealand - - 2005 Kirsty Henderson