Almost two months since we’ve arrived in New Zealand, and we’ve still yet to start work. We arrived in Te Puke two weeks ago, with the expectation that we would start picking kiwi berries immediately until end April. But we’ve been told by the contractor that the weather has been erratic this season, and the berries are still not ripe for picking. So we’ve been
bumming using the time to catch up on writing, exercising etc.
While there has been many useful resources online for working holidays in New Zealand, we didn’t find many written by Singaporeans for Singaporeans. So here’s an attempt to consolidate our experience:
1. Visa Application
There are certain requirements to be eligible for the Working Holiday Visa (WHV). For example, you’ll need to be between 18-30 years old and within 3 years of graduation. You can find the detailed requirements on the immigration website.
If you meet that, you can either apply for the visa via companies like STA Travel where they will also arrange for first 2 nights of accommodation in Auckland, mail forwarding service (which may be important for bank and IRD application mails to get to you) and more. Or you can choose to apply through the website direct. We chose the latter to avoid paying additional fees applying through these companies – we paid NZD 165 – and also for the flexibility in deciding our flight options.
It took less than 5 days for the visa to be approved. Contrary to what was written on the website, we did not receive an email to notify us upon approval of our visas. So do check the website regularly after application. The visa would be valid for a year to travel to New Zealand, and you can stay up to six months in New Zealand to work and travel. Of which, you are able to work up to three months in the country.
Each application cycle starts from November each year, and there are only 200 places available annually. Unlike other countries where the spots would be filled within days, we managed to obtain the visas despite applying in June.
2. Travel Insurance
If you’re intending to stay in New Zealand beyond 3 months, most travel insurances from Singapore won’t be applicable. The ones that do are likely to be very expensive. As an alternative, there are several companies in New Zealand offering travel insurances for working holidays.
After research, we narrowed down to two companies – Orbit Protect & Southern Cross. We went with Orbit Protect eventually as the policy allows for injury claims resulting from jobs in the horticulture industry, where the usual seasonal jobs are from. Total damage was about SGD 210.
However do note that unlike traditional travel insurances, medical bills from pharmacies and clinics would not be covered.
3. First Port of Call
Most people would fly into Auckland and make their way down to South Island. It’s the largest city in New Zealand with a well-connected international airport, hence being the most logical city to start from. Alternatively, there are also direct flights from Singapore to Christchurch, and then work your way up North.
Have a look at the types of jobs available during the season you’re there, and plan your route accordingly to ensure higher chances of securing a job. For example, if you arrive during winter and wish to work in ski resorts, South Island might be a better point to start from.
We managed to score a good deal on Scoot to Gold Coast and spent 4 days there, before taking a flight out to Auckland. Flying to Australia would give you more route options to New Zealand, so if you’re keen to visit another country, this could be a possible route.
The first thing we did at the airport was to purchase a SIM card from the stores located at the arrival hall. We went with Spark’s Prepaid Value Pack which is the cheapest at NZD 19/ month. It comes with unlimited texts, 100mins call time.. And 500MB.
But you’ll survive. Especially with Spark also offering 1GB free WiFi per day from free Spark zones located around city centres across New Zealand.
5. IRD Application
If you intend to work in New Zealand, even for a short while, you are required to pay tax. Setting up an IRD account is easy, just pop by any Post Office and fill up the application form.
What you’ll require besides the essentials like passport, working holiday visa, and drivers license – a local mobile number and an address for them to send the letter to. It’ll take about 10 working days for them to process the IRD application, there’ll be a number where you can call and check on the status to obtain your IRD number before the letter arrives.
Of course, you can also opt to pay for agents/ companies to fast track the IRD application.
6. Bank Account
Our initial plan was to open an account with Kiwi Bank (usually located within a Post Office) straight after IRD application, and TT the money from our Singapore account. We didn’t want to carry much money with us and thought this would be a safer option.
Unfortunately we found out there are stringent rules to prevent tax evasions in recent years, and you would require a Letter of Residence to prove you’re staying in New Zealand. For working holiday goers, the IRD letter would suffice but wouldn’t arrive until much later.
So we had to ration the money we brought over intended for only the first week, and stretched it further after purchasing a car and paying for our next accommodation in Tauranga by cash. Thankfully, the hostel in Tauranga was able to provide a Letter of Residence and managed to open our bank account without the IRD letter (which didn’t arrive until much later). We’re not sure if all hostels offer the same service though.
The hostel manager recommended for us to open with ANZ or Westpac instead of Kiwi Bank as they usually share the same facilities with the post office. While we should really have done more homework on this, we settled with opening two ANZ accounts – a Go account for everyday use, and an Online account where the interest is higher at 3%.
The Go account also comes with a free EFTPOS card, the equivalent to Nets back home, which is very widely used across the country. We’ve been told the cost for using the system is cheap – you can even find the machine at street markets – and this works well as we keep less cash on us.
So to summarise, we keep most of our money in the Online account for savings, and do frequent online transfers to the Go account to ensure sufficient balance for purchases.
If you have driver’s license, we’ll recommend getting a car for transport – conversion to an international driving license is not required. Unlike Singapore, cars are much more affordable – we’re talking about getting a car less than $2k if you’re willing to trade off on luxuries.
You can find second-hand cars from Trade Me (it’s like eBay but just for New Zealand), Bunk, or keep an eye out on Facebook forums like New Zealand Working Holiday 2015 where there would be useful information on jobs as well (more on that later).
We’re far from being car experts, so if you’re one, good for you! You’re set to buying a peach instead of a lemon. Otherwise, make friends with people who are or get the car checked by a professional before and/or after. You’ll probably want to send it in for servicing anyway.
Once you’ve settled on the price of the car, make your way to the nearest Post Office with the seller to transfer the car under your name. You’ll need your driver’s license and NZD 4.50 for the processing fee. And there you have it, a proud owner of an old-new car! Definitely not something you can claim easily back home.
Okay, maybe that’s not it. There’s still car insurance to consider. I say consider as insurance is not compulsory in New Zealand. You can insure against your own car and/or a third-party insurance for damage done to other cars and properties. It makes more sense to purchase a third-party insurances for older cars, so unless you’re purchasing a newer car, you can consider NAC Insurance for just third-party at about SGD 180 for 6 months. For international driver’s license, the excess is capped at $500.
And if you’re kiasu like us, you can also consider applying for AA membership which will give you free callouts from anywhere in New Zealand in case you are stranded. This is completely optional though, we were just worried about the car breaking down in the middle of nowhere with two clueless girls. The membership comes with additional perks as well of course.
Just to note for cars in New Zealand, there’s also a warrant of fitness (WoF) to ensure the cars meet safety requirements. Older cars which are registered before 1 Jan 2000 would only be issued 6 months of WoF before needing another check. We’ll have to renew ours at the end of the month, so we’ll be back to update on that.
For those who can’t drive, fret not – there’s always the option of taking the buses such as Intercity & Naked Bus. The good thing is, you can enjoy and rest on the rides (driving on NZ road sometimes aren’t the most relaxing with windy bends and steep slopes). But a major con would probably be the lack of flexibility in terms of timings and stops.
8. Job Application
With a working holiday visa, technically you’re able to look for all kinds of jobs – as long as the duration does not exceed three months. Seasonal work in orchards, vineyards, and packhouses (such as Seeka and Trevelyan) are usually more flexible and allow for several weeks of employment.
The usual suspects to look for jobs would be from Facebook groups (mentioned above) and websites such as PickNZ, Seasonal Jobs, Backpacker Board etc. If there are specific companies you’re keen to apply for, you can also email them directly to ask if they have anything suitable.
Unlike Singapore, there’s a minimum pay of $14.25/hour, with an additional 8% holiday pay for seasonal work as required by the government. Some picking jobs would offer contract payment instead which means the salary is based on your production (i.e. number of bins picked). So the more you pick, the more you earn! This is extreme hard work, and for someone without experience, this may not work in your favour (psst: go for the hourly rate jobs instead!).
Another alternative to paid work will be WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms). WWOOFing enables one to volunteer and help out on the host’s property (usually for 4-6 hours a day) in exchange for food and accommodation. This option is very popular as well as we met several WWOOFers at some of our Airbnb stays. The work is usually varied, and we definitely recommend this option to those who are keen to immerse in the local culture.
There are two main types of accommodation – hostels & shared houses.
If you’re looking to stay in hostels, consider getting the BBH or YHA card. While the BBH card has more hostel listings, we purchased the YHA card as it was cheaper and shared as we usually opt for a private room (average price ranges from NZD 30-40 per pax). Also, we opted to stay in Airbnbs whenever we could if they were around the same price. These were our options when we were travelling.
However if you’ve found work and are looking for accommodation to settle down for longer periods, shared houses would usually be cheaper at NZD 80 – 110 per pax for a week. For our current accommodation, we’re paying NZD 130 which is above the market rate – admittedly, we didn’t do as much research and settled down at the first job + accommodation offer.
So word of advice if you don’t want to regret like us – look around the Facebook pages and ask around for contacts. Check out the boards at Supermarkets for listings as well.
Disclaimer from the #anzacventures duo: by no means are we saying we’re an expert, above information are based on our personal experience