Wither Hills Vineyard. Photo by Phillip Capper

From following the “Harvest Trail” to visa information, here’s everything you need to get started working the vineyards of New Zealand.

In New Zealand, a framework of industry standards was developed over 10 years ago to ensure that winegrowers focus on improving and maintaining the environmental integrity and ‘clean-green’ image of their wine production.

Most wineries and vineyards around New Zealand now have accredited vineyard status which allows them to display the Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand emblem. A list of these accredited wineries and website.

The Harvest Trail

There are hundreds of vineyards and wineries in New Zealand and most are on the lookout for seasonal workers to prune and help with the harvests.

Remember, seasons are reversed in the southern hemisphere, with harvesting occurring in between February and April and pruning from June to August.

Workers are also needed from November to March for general tidy up and vineyard maintenance.

Because New Zealand’s ten wine regions are spread from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South Island, it’s possible, with careful planning, to follow the ‘harvest trail’ and pick up vineyard jobs in different parts of the country.

For example, chardonnay grapes are harvested in the warmer and more humid northern regions (Northland, Auckland, and Gisborne) in late February and early March, whereas further south (Central Otago), these grapes are often not harvested until mid to late April.

Wine ready for harvesting. Photo by Rae Allen.
Online and Offline Resources

To help decide when and where to go, your first port of call should be the Horticulture New Zealand website to look at the Seasonal Work Brochure.

This brochure provides a comprehensive calendar that highlights what seasonal work is available each month of the year.

It also has a list of contacts that can help with your search for work and accommodation.

Other useful websites include Seasonal Work NZ, which maintains a Harvest Trail list where you can type in the location and month to get current job openings, Wine Jobs Online, a database of viticulture jobs ranging from winemaking to harvesting, Seasonal Jobs in New Zealand, and Backpackerboard.co.nz , which maintains a list of seasonal jobs, as well as providing everything you need to know about transport and accommodation.

But not all resources are online. Once you are in the country, a great way of finding seasonal work is by checking out noticeboards.

Target your wine region and once you’re there, head for the local New Zealand Employment Service and eyeball the noticeboard. At harvest time there should be plenty of jobs to choose from. Noticeboards can also be found at supermarkets, shopping centers, and backpacker hostels.

Other effective ways of finding seasonal work include looking for signs on local winery roads, reading local newspapers, and knocking on doors. Many of the areas will also have a Seasonal Work Coordinator – just ask at the local tourist information center.

Visa Information

The Working Holiday Visa is a necessity for anyone considering seasonal work in New Zealand. No one will employ you without it. The visa is available to those between the ages 18 and 30 and lets you live and work in New Zealand for up to 12 months.

The specific requirements vary depending on your citizenship. The New Zealand Immigration Departmentwebsite has an easy to follow page dedicated to the Working Holiday Scheme outlining these requirements.

Click on your home country for instructions. It’s also important to note that you will need a New Zealand income tax number in order to be employed.

So what are you waiting for?

Community Connection

For New Zealand contacts, including local experts and fellow travelers, plus organizations, blogs, and more, check out the New Zealand page here at Matador.