How to get a job in New Zealand (with a Working Holiday Visa)

If you are looking for information for permanent high-paying work, then this article isn’t for you.  If you are interested in traveling the country of New Zealand and learning about the culture while working odd-end jobs to help supplement some travel expenses, then you’re in the right place!

My husband and I always dreamed of one day making our way to New Zealand, and we had pages upon pages of things we wanted to experience while there.  With so much we wanted to do and see, and the high cost of the plane tickets, we started planning to take a extended trip to New Zealand and looked at what our options were available for work to help supplement our travel costs.

New Zealand offers a Working Holiday Visa (WHV) as an opportunity for those travelers looking to live and work abroad for a year. (check out my article on Working Holiday Visas).  This is exactly what we needed!

You can easily make enough money to get by and supplement your travels with a Working Holiday Visa.  Minimum wage is $17.70 NZD as of April 1st, 2019.  If you plan to live minimally, then performing seasonal work is a great way to supplement your cost of living while traveling.

It’s important to know that for most towns in New Zealand, seasonal timing is everything!  Casey and I arrived in New Zealand at the beginning of December, and knew we would probably need to wait to job search after the holidays were over. We made arrangements before we arrived with a WWOOF host to stay with them through December until the beginning of January.  We had a budget we made before leaving the USA to cover our travel expenses (food, gas, and money for extra items like snorkeling or nice dinners outs) and planned to get work as needed to refill our bank account while we traveled for the year.   

Let me walk you through some of the options we found for work and supplementing living costs in New Zealand:

What to do for housing?

Every traveler will have a different preference on this topic and it mostly depends on what you’re comfortable with. If you’re on a tight budget, look for work in exchange for accommodation. 

WWOOFing is one option. This is where volunteers work on organic farms for exchange of room and board, and some meals.  This would also help cut down on some expenses, while getting a better idea of the culture and diversity of New Zealand.

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WWOOF work: helping make port.

While most of the time the work isn’t paid, you can supplement some of your costs of living by staying with a host for a couple of weeks.  There are also other work for accommodations websites you can check out, like WorkAway or HelpX.

Some travelers prefer to spend their year living in and out of hostels. Hostels cost around $20-40 per day (on the low end) depending on time of year and location. If you’re staying in a location for an extended period of time, most hostels will have a “long-term” resident room offered at a discounted price.  I preferred to use Hostel World to search for hostels because it had a ranking system and reviews.

TIP: It’s essential to book your hostel well in advance before landing in New Zealand.  Auckland is where most backpackers begin their journey and can be unpleasantly surprised when they land and haven’t secured a reservation at a hostel between Spring to Fall. The same can be said for Wellington, Queenstown, and other larger cities. 

It has become popular to rent or buy a campervan to explore New Zealand in.  There is an amazing app, CamperMate, that EVERY backpacker and campervan traveler uses.  I highly recommend that you download it before you begin your travels. (You can also use this same app while traveling in Australia.)  It has different maps to locate campsites for campervans, showing which sites are free, for self-contained only, and everything in-between. Also, users can leave reviews about campsites, which helps you know if a spot is safe and clean, or typically busy at certain times.

Casey and I had bought a little campervan to live out of while in New Zealand. We were able to use the CamperMate app, plus some brochures from I-sites, to find a lot of free camping spots.  Some were in remote areas, but we didn’t mind because we got to see the beautiful and diverse landscape of New Zealand.

If you are planning to stay at paid campgrounds then you can plan to spend $5 to $20+ per person.  I know this is a large range, but it really depends on the area you are in and what kind of amenities the campground is offering.  Some will have full kitchens, showers, and free wi-fi.

You may hear the term “freedom camping” and this is permitted in only certain areas.  Most freedom camping requires you to have a self-contained campervan.  This is to cut down on waste that is left around the camping areas. If you are in a non self-contained camper then you will find you have some limited options in certain areas.

While traveling on the North Island, some places were opening up freedom camping spaces to non self-contained (NSC) campervans.  Were were able to use some of these spaces.  If everyone can follow the rules and be respectful, then more communities may offer spaces for freedom campers that are NSC. 

Please, for the sake of all other travelers, don’t camp where you’re not supposed to! Use designated toilets to do your business and take your rubbish with you.  New Zealand has an awesome thing going for it, please don’t spoil it for others!

How to Find Work:

Websites like TradeMeseek.co.nz, and Backpackerboard will give you a good idea of what type of work is available. Most towns will also have their own community Facebook group or local news publications which are both common ways to find work.  (i.e. There is a Facebook group just for bartenders in the Wellington area.)  I want to mention WorkAway and HelpX again because I heard a lot of travelers that used these websites to find paying jobs.

Many travelers also find work by walking around town and handing in physical CVs (Casey and I did this in Wellington and it truly is the way to get noticed by potential employers in New Zealand).

We were told by local kiwis that the whole country of New Zealand functions like a small town.  Networking will get you most places.  Word of mouth is the best way to get recommendations for work.

The concept of getting a full-time position with benefits on a WHV is not exactly what this visa was designed for.  While I have met a few people during my travel of New Zealand that were able to find permanent work while first coming over on a WHV, this is not too common (but is still possible).  The type of work available for someone with a WHV is casual.

Areas of work possibilities involve places with high turn-over rates, such as hospitality, tourism, and agriculture.  This is not all that is available, but what the trend is for workers on WHV.

Most of the backpackers and travelers on WHV get work picking fruit.  Because different fruits are ripe during different time of the year, travelers can see most of New Zealand while following the fruits that are ready to be picked.

When we would tell people we were here on a working holiday they assumed my husband and I were fruit pickers.  Actually, my husband was able to apply online for a job beekeeping.  This was due to his qualifications and education in entomology.  It just so happened that there was also some office and marketing work as well, which fit my resume and skills.

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Casey checking on the bees.

I also was able to find work picking hydroponic strawberries.  I had never done this before, but found that it was actually a lot of fun and I learned interesting facts about growing strawberries and using hydroponics!

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Hydroponic Strawberry Greenhouse.

My biggest tip is do not worry about securing work before you arrive in New Zealand when coming over on a WHV.   The main concept of the working holiday is that you get time to also relax and be on holiday!  The visa is valid for a year (or two depending on your citizenship), so make sure you getting our there to explore natural beauties that New Zealand has to offer!

There you have it. If you follow these tips and guidelines you’ll be well on your way to a comfortable and easy transition to life in New Zealand. Congratulations and enjoy your year in one of the most beautiful countries in the world!


Have you ever moved abroad for work? Share your stories in the comments below!

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Thanks for reading!

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