So here’s a page dedicated to my experience as a kiwi picker. I worked for around 2 months for the same contractor along with 14 other people from the hostel.
How we got the job in the first place?
So our plan whilst travelling was to stop off in New Zealand not only to see the amazinf scenery but to also work here so that we would have more money to travel with.
We had read about the kiwi picking in a place called Tauranga. There was a hostel named “Harbourside Backpackers” hostel which offered to help find you work here so naturally this sounded like a great idea.
We got the bus from Auckland to Tauranga and found our hostel. Harbourside was a cool hostel as its view from the balcony was overlooking the sea/harbour .
Spoke to the manager there Alina who stated that Kiwi picking would be starting around the 15th March. It was now 14th February. We waited in the hostel until then. That date came and it didn’t start until the 1st week of April. Kiwi picking gets delayed. . . it aint good if your looking to start straight away.
We met our boss called Peter John. He was a short old fella who was either in/wishes he was in the army by the way he acted.
Kiwi picking involved Jack (our elected team leader) to make sure everyone was up and ready and Peter John would call him in the morning to tell him what orchard we would be at with times etc.
We arrived at his house first of all to collect our kiwi bags. These were bags that were strapped to you and could weigh up to 40kg full. Heres me modelling one:
Orchard is the name given to farms with lots of fruit plants on them I guess. We went to several different Orchards. Some were huge and well maintained (nice grass and 5ft10 space to stand under the kiwi plants) and some were small and shit (wooden poles snapping, 4ft space to stand under kiwi plants and shitty owners who were rude). The best Orchard we worked on was this HUGE one which had an amazing view over these lakes and mountains and once we had finished picking all of the owners fruit, they put on a huge buffet for us with beers – which was so nice as the majority of these owners of these Orchards are stuck up their own arse n don’t seem to understand that if you treat the workers nice with respect then they will work harder and faster for you – I mean surely its common sense as they want the fruit picked asap and unbruised so how does being rude to the pickers make any sense? Dumbasses!! But heres a pic of the Orchard owner (to the left) who did the buffet n who was cool to us, so if if you work on his orchard your lucky!
Types of Kiwis
You have 2 main types of Kiwi..Gold and green. Gold requires you to pick it slower and place it in your bag as it bruises alot easier than green. Green are alot bigger and can be handled with less care.
There is a term that is called “raining”. This means when you are basically picking them and dropping them into your bag. This is a big no no as again they can bruise the kiwis.
We were paid per bin. We were paid $17 per bin and there were 15 of us in total. The amount of bins at the end of the day got divided by the amount of people.
Best week we had money wise was $450 after tax. This was working around 6 days in the week. Other weeks were affected by mainly rain and other factors.
Factors that stop you from picking damn kiwi fruit
The other factors that affected our days off were things like:
1) Spray in the morning had not dried
2) Fruit was not sweet enough to pick
3) Fruit was wet due to the dew in the morning
4) We ran out of bins
5) Tractor broke on site
So your picking kiwi fruit above your head so naturally theres gunna be bugs.
Bee Shell Things
We saw lots of these weird bee things attached to leaves, wooden poles n bushes. At first i thought they were alive n they did look freaky, however on closer inspection they were “skin/shells” of what w once a bee thingy. This is what they looked like:
There were LOTS N LOTS of spiders. They fall on you, they crawl on you and they stare at you…n they aint pretty. The only good thing is that none of them are posinenous..but that don’t mean they cant bite. We saw huge spiders, with long ass legs that would just balance on a kiwi…then there were these grey ones that had fat bodies and then you have the almighty WHITE TAIL spiders. Although rare we did see the odd one and these were the only spiecies that apprantely can cause a nasty reaction on your body if they bite. I aint a fan of spiders, however you kinda just get used to them dropping on you..the most frustrating part is the amount of webs you walk threw face first!! Grrr.
Never saw one before in the wild until one landed on my cowboy hat. I stared at it for a while then noticed that these creatures have a great personality…sounds weird I know but if you stare at one standing still, it wont be long until they stare right back at you and they actually move their head to the side as they do it which is quite comical. I actually liked these insects as I would try n catch them when I saw one as the way they move is quite comical and they seem friendly enough.
Best Clothing To Wear
To be fair you can do it in a string vest and shorts (as some of our lot did). I wore a t shirt and shorts and then long trousers when it turned to winter as it was colder. I also wore a cowboy hat most the time just to keep all the shit like dust, leaves n bugs out your hair..as it happens due to the orchard only being 5ft10 the plants kept catching on my hat so i eventually didn’t bother taking it as it kept falling off.
Pains you suffer
At first the main pain we all suffered was from our hands. The day after our first kiwi picking session all of our hands hurt as your grabbing like 2 – 3 kiwis with each hand at a time and then pulling down…this motion repeated about 1000 times in a day can have an effect on your hands..it didn’t take long until you get used to the pain thow (about 4 days).
The other pain i got was the Lower Back. As you can imagine youve got a full bag of kiwis that youve picked in your bag thats strapped around your shoulders and back. It weighs about 40kg full. You then have to walk over to your bin (which can sometimes be 2-3 rows away from you) to empty it. Sometimes just getting to the bin can put strain on your back as some kwi plants are low down (around 5ft) so your kinda ducking and bending down whilst walking to avoid walking into the dangling plants with all that weight. When you finally get to the bin you then have to bend over the bin and undo your bin to empty all the kiwis out. This is the part that will kill your back. You do this about 50 times a day with full bags and unless you like Deadlift exercises, your back aint gunna have a clue whats going on resulting in your back hurting the next day.
I did Kiwi picking for about 2 months. My back hurt at the end of everyday , however it was never long term. Once you sit down for about an hour it goes back to normal.
Whats the most bins we filled
The largest bins are rather big. The record number of bins we filled in a day was 124 between 16 of us.
Is it worthwhile?
Its worthwhile for the experience but not for the money. We were told that we would earn $600 minimum a week. We never saw this amount. We earnt $450 in a week as theres so much that stops you from working you never actually get chance to work a full day every day of the week. I even found payslips of the guys who worked for the same contractor last year in the van and their biggest amount over 3 weeks was $390 in a week…so I don’t even think it was a one off for us. We were also told that we would start on 15th March and finish around 15th May. . . and then a huge bbq would be put on by Peter John. Reality was that the end date kept being put back due to rain n other kiwi reasons n it has periods where you just don’t work for a week (so you don’t get paid) as the fruit wasn’t ready etc. We had to leave before the end of the Kiwi season as it kept being put back too much and our flight left in June. Dont do this job if your wanting to make lots of money in a short period of time…My advice would be to get something like bar work or something that is atleast Mon – Fri for 8 weeks guaranteed as you will be lucky to even work 4 days a week in kiwi picking in the winter if it rains alot.