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Fruit picking in Central Otago

Having no previous experience in a seasonal job before coming to New Zealand I thought I would be fairly well prepared otherwise. Given the fact I was in good physical health and keen. While I would not say the job was overly difficult or taxing there were some parts I will say are tricky. Central Otago in fruit picking-season has many backpackers and travelers (as well as students) there for some extra cash. We two started by driving down to Alexandra from Christchurch. We arrived and went into the office of Seasonal Solutions the next day to meet the ladies working there and to register for orchard and vineyard job/s. It was unfortunate but it seemed the only work available would be cherry picking and not for a couple of weeks. So we would have to wait. Luckily we got a text up to come into the office that next week if we were interested in apple thinning down in Roxburgh (about 40 km away). The job was happily received and we headed there the next day to start immediately. It was also quite good as in the end the cherry picking season got pushed back quite a few weeks and then rain damaged quite a lot of the stock. Roxburgh is a fairly small town with a couple of backpacker hostels a supermarket some chippies a couple of pubs etc.. Most people staying in the hostels there are doing seasonal work. When we arrived some were on early cherries or other work around the orchards e.g. netting or apple thinning. For us a bus would come and pick about 30 people working on the one orchard up in town at 7.30 in the morning and we would get dropped back home by quarter to five in the afternoon. The accommodation as in most of NZ so far is of a high standard; clean and comfy. The job itself is not too hard. You are outside all day. In December the heat is not exceptionally bad - although after the first few days you realise sunscreen long sleeves and a hat are important. And lots and lots of water! Most people can go through 3 litres a day easily. Also I found that I would eat a lot to maintain energy levels - sandwiches and fruit etc.. It helps to have somewhere nice and relaxing to come home to at the end of the day. The hours can be long (6 days a week) and the weather difficult. The job of apple thinning involves taking many apples off the tree so that the remaining apples can grow to a full and good size. So when comes time to pick them they are ready. You use tall ladders to get to the tops of the trees and get paid for the amount of trees you do. Trees are graded according to difficulty. For example a really large tree with lots of branches and a fair few apples will take longer to finish than a smaller tree with less dense foliage (leaves etc.). Therefore you get paid more for it. I did 3 weeks in the end as the contract finished before Christmas but my friend I am traveling with went back after the new year when the break was over and continued till the end of January. Apple thinning can be tough on the muscles to start. For the first 10 days you feel as though all your body is aching. After that you do not notice it so much anymore. It rained a couple of times in our 3 weeks there working in the orchard. Most people you meet are really nice and I would have to say it was a fair introduction to this type of work overall. You get used to living with a lot of people who are all doing the same thing - you share the same problems and laugh about your aches and pains and difficulties associated with the role. Most people are really friendly All in all I would say it was a decent experience and a good way to make some money for your travels while staying in New Zealand.

Submitted by: Donna Keenan
Date submitted: 27/02/2012 9:38:00 PM

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