Kaimahi Whare Putunga
This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Packhouse workers grade, pack and store crops in horticultural packhouses.
Packhouse workers usually earn
$16-$25 per hour
Source: Crasborn Fresh Harvest Ltd.
Pay for packhouse workers varies depending on skill, experience and the specific role.
- Packhouse workers usually start on minimum wage or a little more.
- Packhouse workers in positions of responsibility can earn up to $25 an hour.
Source: Crasborn Fresh Harvest Ltd.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Packhouse workers may do some or all of the following:
- grade, pack and store crops according to market specifications
- assemble packaging and crates
- stack fruit crates using forklifts
- ensure quality control procedures and food, health and safety regulations are followed
- ensure equipment and machinery are maintained.
Skills and knowledge
Packhouse workers need to have knowledge of:
- grading, packing and storing crops
- fruit standards
- health, safety, and food laws and processes, including technical specifications about crops.
- work regular business hours in the off season, but usually do shift work and extra hours during the harvest season
- work in packhouses and warehouses
- may have to travel locally or further afield to follow the work as the seasons and produce change.
What's the job really like?
Robert Humphries - Packhouse Worker
Robert Humphries always knew he wanted to work with plants and made the move from his home in Southland to Dunedin to study fruit production and nursery horticulture at Otago Polytechnic. It was here that he developed a passion for kiwifruit.
Now he works as an assistant site manager for Seeka Kiwifruit, a Bay of Plenty company that packs and stores kiwifruit for local and overseas markets.
Working in a big packhouse
"We're operating three grading machines here and about 23 cool stores. The main kiwifruit season starts in early April and finishes by mid-June. Last year we employed 600-700 employees over a 24-hour period.
"The biggest part of my job in the last three years has been problem solving. I've been the go-to guy to fix anything – from the fruit quality not being good to the machinery not working, and if I can't fix it, then I find someone who can.
"What I like about my job is that it's a challenge. I also enjoy the variety of people I deal with in the fruit and vegetable industry."
There are no specific entry requirements to become a packhouse worker.
Packhouse workers who have good work ethics and the right attitude are supported by some employers to do an in-house training programme or gain horticulture qualifications through the Primary ITO, or local tertiary provider.
Some employers may require you to have a a heavy truck driving licence, or forklift licence.
- Primary ITO website - information on post-harvest training
- NZ Transport Agency website - information about heavy truck driving licences
There are no specific secondary education requirements, but a minimum of NCEA Level 1 English and maths is recommended.
Packhouse workers need to be:
- able to work well under pressure
- accurate, with an eye for detail.
Useful experience includes:
- work on orchards or vegetable farms
- forklift driving
- production line work.
Find out more about training
- Primary Industry Training Organisation
- 0800 208020 - email@example.com - www.primaryito.ac.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Growth in horticulture exports likely to create more jobs for packhouse workers
More packhouse workers will be needed over the next five years, particularly in under-cover vegetable growing and vineyards, because:
- more land has been earmarked for horticultural production
- the export market to Asia is increasing, and horticulturalists aim to increase export production to $10 billion by 2020
- the Government has invested $36 million in a programme to increase kiwifruit production, which runs until 2017.
Best chance of getting work by contacting employers directly, and in certain seasons
Your best chance of getting work is to contact employers directly. Some overseas workers may qualify to be recruited under the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, which allows registered employers to recruit overseas workers, if they cannot get New Zealand workers to fill vacancies.
Many staff are employed seasonally, especially from December to April, when thousands more workers are needed to harvest and pack fruit and vegetables. Depending on the crop and location, the season may continue to the start of winter in June.
Types of employers varied
Packhouse workers are employed by businesses that range in size, from small firms employing only a few workers, to large businesses employing hundreds of workers. Packhouse workers may move between packhouses that handle different fruit or vegetables, as the skills required are usually similar or easily picked up.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Recognised Seasonal Employers', accessed January 2015, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Kemp, P, 'NZ Needs More Horticulture Professionals', NZ Farmer, November 2014, (www.stuff.co.nz).
- MacDonald, E, HR manager, Crasborn Fresh Harvest Ltd, Careers New Zealand interview, April 2014.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2003-2012 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2014.
- Statistics New Zealand, ‘Census of Population and Dwellings’, 2014 (www.stats.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Packhouse workers can progress by learning new skills such as forklift driving. With experience they can move into supervisory, quality control and logistics (co-ordinating the transport for exporting fruit and vegetables) positions.
Last updated 26 May 2017