Job roles

The orchards and vineyards of New Zealand offer many different jobs – in the harvest season and other seasons as well.
Depending upon the season and the region you could:

  • harvest fruit, vegetable or wine grapes
  • pack and sort fruit and vegetables
  • prune fruit trees and grape vines
  • maintain crops
  • be involved in summer pruning, planting vegetables or thinning fruit.

No previous experience is needed as all training is provided on-the-job. There is a wide range of positions available for young, old, skilled and unskilled people. All you need to be is fit, enthusiastic and reliable!

You will need a good level of fitness for outdoor work, and work may sometimes be irregular due to adverse weather conditions.

Orchard Roles

Fruit Thinner

A fruit thinner is usually paid on a piece work basis (price per tree). Excess fruit is removed from the tree by hand to allow the remaining fruit to grow to an acceptable size. Poor quality fruit is also removed. Workers are paid by the number of trees they thin per day or per week. Piece rates usually reflect how hard the work is. The more difficult the work, the higher the rate.

The busiest time for apple thinning is during November and December, and work can be found in Hawke’s Bay, Nelson and Central Otago. There are also a small number of orchards in the Waikato region.

Summerfruit thinning work can be found in October and November in Hawke’s Bay, and Central Otago.

Kiwifruit thinners are needed in summer.

Picker - Apples and Summerfruit

Fruit pickers take fruit off trees, meeting certain size, colour, ripeness and quality standards. Fruit is picked into buckets that are strapped to the shoulders of the workers. The buckets are then emptied into fruit bins and a quality controller or orchard supervisor evaluates the work.

Pickers must be fit and have good vision. The work may involve use of ladders or elevated work platforms. Fruit picking is usually paid on a piece work basis (price per bin). Piece rates usually reflect how hard the work is. The more difficult the work, the higher the rate.

The apple harvest usually starts mid-February and lasts until mid-May, and is based in Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, Central Otago and a small number of orchards in the Waikato region.

The summerfruit harvest (cherries, apricots, peaches, nectarines and plums) starts in Hawke’s Bay in November and in Central Otago in December. It usually finishes by early March.

Picker - Strawberries and Asparagus

Generally this is a job for mornings only. Pickers need to be physically fit and without back problems. Pay is generally on a piece rate basis. There are jobs in the Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Horowhenua regions. The season runs from September to December for asparagus and October to March for strawberries.

Picker - Kiwifruit

Kiwifruit pickers take fruit off vines and place them in a bucket strapped to the shoulders. Buckets are then emptied into a fruit bin. The vines are usually hanging from an overhead pergola or are occasionally on a “T-bar”. Pickers must be fit, and may need to bend or crouch to work under the pergolas. The quality controller or orchard supervisor evaluates the work.

Kiwifruit picking is often paid on a piece-rate basis, although some picking, especially of the Gold variety of kiwifruit, is paid on an hourly rate. The kiwifruit harvest runs from April to June, and the majority of the work is in the Bay of Plenty, although there are a number of kiwifruit orchards in Hawke’s Bay and Northland.  It can be cold so pickers need to dress well for the weather.

Fruit Tree Pruner

This is a skilled job that requires training if a worker lacks experience. Tree branches are pruned by use of secateurs, loppers or electronic pruners to the requirements of the grower. Methods and equipment required may vary between employers. Ladders and elevated work platforms may also be used.

Tractor Driver

Tractor drivers are responsible for bin placement and removal. They position empty bins at convenient positions for pickers and remove filled bins ready to be stacked onto trucks. Drivers must be able to operate machinery safely and without damaging the harvested fruit.

Hydralada Operator

Hydraladas are elevated work platforms and a certain amount of skill is required to operate them. Hydralada operators pick fruit from the tops of the trees, usually following behind ground or ladder pickers. Operators must be able to operate machinery safely and without damaging the harvested fruit or trees. They may also be responsible for some maintenance of the machinery.

Hydralada Operator

Forklift operators work in orchards or packhouses, loading bins of harvested fruit on and off trucks and placing them in shade houses or cool stores. Operators may also be responsible for labelling bins to ensure traceability of the fruit. A forklift licence or OSH certificate is required.

Truck Driver

Truck drivers transport fruit between orchards, packhouses and shippers. Truck drivers must have a heavy traffic (HT) licence and be able to deliver fruit safely and in good condition. Some paperwork is involved during delivery and dispatch.

Pre-harvest Crop Monitor

Pre-harvest crop monitors visit properties to identify any pests and diseases, and assess any damage that may have been caused. This job also involves collecting and collating statistical data.

Pre-harvest Quality Controller

This position involves the collection of fruit samples and testing them for maturity to set parameters. It may involve travel between properties and a lot of walking within orchards. It also involves collating data.

Harvest Quality Controller

Quality controllers work in the orchard and are responsible for the quality of the harvested crop. Random samples are taken from each bin and checked for quality, size, colour and maturity. Quality controllers should be able to relate well to both workers and management.

Vineyard Roles

General Vineyard Work

This may include wire tucking, debudding and general maintenance work.

Vineyard Summer Work

There are various positions in the vineyards during the summer and the only requirement workers need to have is a willingness to work hard! A reasonable level of fitness is required and some jobs require good upper body strength. Tasks include bud rubbing, shoot thinning, wire lifting, fruit thinning, leaf plucking, net placement and development work.

Grape Harvest

Positions at harvest are limited due to the fact that a lot of the wine grapes are now harvested by machines. However, a large number of workers are needed at this time in the Marlborough region. Workers need to have a reasonable fitness level. It can also be cold so pickers need to dress well for the weather.

Grape Pruning

There are different types of pruning available depending on the variety of the grapes. Grape pruners don’t need experience, as training is provided. Tasks include pruning, stripping out, wrapping and tying.

Packhouse Roles

These jobs may involve long periods of standing and shift work.

Grader

Graders sort fruit for physical defects, colour, pest damage and overall quality.

Cleaner or Shed Hand

Cleaners work in the packhouse ensuring the plant meets industry standards.

Data Management Clerk

Data management clerks work in the packhouse collecting and collating data either manually or by computer.

Labeller

Labellers work in the packhouse labelling packed fruit for shipment. Using computer-controlled equipment they ensure the traceability of packed fruit to market requirements.

Stacker

Stackers work in the packhouse stacking packed boxes of fruit. This work involves plenty of heavy lifting so stackers must be strong and fit.

Strappers

Strappers secure the loads (with tape or plastic wrap) according to the requirements of the shippers.

Process Factory Worker

Process factory workers work in the packhouse.

Tray Filler or Packer

Tray fillers / packers work in the packhouse, watching for defects in the fruit and making sure the packed product is presented well.

Post-harvest Quality Controller

Quality controllers are responsible for assessing the quality of the harvested crop. Random samples are taken from bins and packed boxes and checked for quality, size, colour and maturity. Quality controllers need to be able to relate well to both workers and management.

Coolstore Personnel

Coolstore personnel work in the packhouse coolstores keeping records of stock movements. Accuracy and numeracy are required.

Line Manager

Line managers ensure the quality of the line of fruit being processed complies with industry standards.

Shift Manager

Shift managers are responsible for workflow during the period of their shift. They solve workflow problems by people management and usually liaise with the line manager.

Inspector

Inspectors usually work at port of export, monitoring shipments to make sure they meet international standards. This position usually requires a MAF qualification.

Office Roles

Crop Monitor

Pre-harvest crop monitors visit properties to identify any pests and diseases and assess any damage that may have been caused. This job also involves collecting and collating statistical data.

Office Administrator or Pay Clerk

These positions usually require computer skills. Office administrators input and collate data collected in the orchard. They collect bin tallies from workers and balance with those of the orchard supervisors. Pay clerks pay staff for work completed.

Data Input Clerk

Clerks are responsible for the input data from packed fruit to provide traceability for shipped produce, and the reconciliation of data with grower records.

Manager

Managers are responsible for the day-to-day running of the pack house, including staff management, budgeting, administration and planning.

Foreman

This is a permanent position, usually requiring a minimum of three years’ experience in the horticulture industry. A foreman is responsible for supervising staff, crop production and protection, operation of machinery and equipment, as well as other general duties. Employers may require a qualification (e.g. National Certificate in Horticulture) or a three-year cadetship.