Jobs on the Road Keri Keri New Zealand Oceania Travelogues

Jobs on the Road- Working as a Kiwi Packer in Keri Keri, New Zealand

Sunset in Keri Keri New Zealand - thetravelouger

Welcome to part 4 of my jobs on the road series, where I share my tales of the random jobs we travellers have to take up in order to fund our travel addictions!

Jobs on the Road


Kiwi Packing in Keri Keri

After weeks spent waiting for the kiwis, AKA being duped by the owners of our hostel, it was finally time to start our careers as kiwi packers.

Kiwi packing was a test of endurance. It made me think that perhaps I would do well for myself if I were ever serving a long prison sentence.

We arrived in Keri Keri months before there was any work and found ourselves trapped in a hostel-cum-mouse infested house-cum-shack in the middle of nowhere. You can read more about that here.

On our first day in the world of kiwi packing, we had the luck to be chosen as graders, a much-coveted position in the kiwi packing field.

The three of us worked with two other ladies, in a slightly secluded section of the packhouse. One was Mauri and really kind and funny. Then there was a nice, if slightly anxious woman who kept making sure she reminded us that her husband owned a yacht, so that we would know she wasn’t a career kiwi grader.

Kiwi grading involved staring at a conveyor belt of kiwis and pulling out the ones that were really deformed looking. There were a lot of those. Kiwis are graded in three divisions, first, seconds and thirds.

Kiwi - kiwi packing in Keri Keri New Zealand


Shifts at the kiwi packing factory were torturously long. Staring at kiwis for 10-12 hours a day can get a little dull. Okay, it can get really dull.

Luckily, the shifts were broken up by breaks every couple of hours, this made the long stretch appear more manageable, and gave us a shorter countdown to work with. We took things section by section, so instead of thinking we had 11 hours left, we just counted down to the next ‘smoko’ or lunch break.

To pass the time we would do some exercise, by moving from one foot to another, and sometimes even discreetly squatting or lifting our legs.

why the kiwi accent is heaps good - thetraveloguer

Why the Kiwi Accent is Heaps Good!

This was a good way to distract ourselves from the monotony of kiwi grading. Ipods were forbidden, but technically, because we were graders we weren’t on the floor and so the main reason for the ban, that we could be run over by a forklift while bopping to tunes, didn’t really hold up.

The sexy hairnets we had to wear came in handy for covering the one ear that was listening to the headphone that was hidden under our clothes. We were always careful to remove it before each break. If they never saw us with them, then we could pretend we didn’t know the no headphone rule applied to the grading section, but once we were told to remove them, it would have been bye bye sanity.

On my ipod I also wrote out all the countries and capitals that we had started to learn during our imprisonment in Keri Keri. We would quiz each other to pass the time, and sometimes I’d sneak a peek to try do some learning during the shift.

Some days, we all had to sort limes. In the strange world of fruit packing, this was met with major excitement. Limes were so nice and different after the never-ending parade of hairy kiwis. They offered our tired eyes a different shade of green, and they smelled lovely.

limes - kiwi packing life keri keri new zealand

Other times, everyone had to pack little oranges. Oranges and limes didn’t require grading, so we would all stand at the end of a conveyor chute, and rapidly box oranges that flew at us, making snap decisions on their appearance. Some would have broken skin, others might have too much green. Oranges smelled nice too, but the loud, busy atmosphere of the main floor made us happy to return to the grading section once we were done.

Although a test of endurance, we had some laughs in the kiwi packing factory.

We used to save the really deformed kiwis and bring them home. There was a camel, giraffe type and of course, plenty of phallic and boob-shaped ones too. The best one of all was a mutant double kiwi with what looked like an asshole. We turned it into an exact replica of our landlady, who turned out to be a dangerous alcoholic maniac, but again, that’s another story from crazy Keri Keri.

kiwi reject

Once our shift was over, we would pour outside, spirits high at the thought of hours free from kiwis. Once we had eventually left our nightmare accommodation and were staying at a lovely caravan park with the nicest couple running it, we would walk back to town, past the fruit trees and crop fields in the golden light of the slowly setting sun.

There was an amazing chocolate shop and factory on the main road back into town. On more than one occassion we would take a detour there and watch the chocolatiers at work.

After about two months of long days and (eventually) peaceful nights, we had built up some savings and were ready to say goodbye to Keri Keri.

Keri Keri was at times a challenge, and kiwi packing was tedious, but looking back on our time spent in Keri Keri, it’s the beautiful surroundings, the small town living and the quality time spent with my two travel friends that make me remember it all with fondness. I’d do it all again, 12 hour kiwi packing shifts and all.

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  • Reply
    May 21, 2016 at 4:03 pm

    Wow! What a crazy experience! I could have never put up with all that. I would’ve gone insane 😛
    Brianna recently posted…How to do Kathmandu in One DayMy Profile

  • Reply
    May 21, 2016 at 4:15 pm

    I’m always so interested to hear how others make money while on the road. This sounds like quite the experience!

  • Reply
    May 21, 2016 at 9:15 pm

    It’s funny how these jobs are never so bad when you look back on them, isn’t it? Memory is a strange thing
    sarah recently posted…First Impressions of La PazMy Profile

  • Reply
    Kathryn Hunter
    May 22, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Sounds like you learned more about how you handle yourself in odd situations, than you bargained for. I bet it comes in useful at some point. 🙂

  • Reply
    May 22, 2016 at 11:18 pm

    Like Kathryn said it was a good learning experience. Not so sure if I would have stayed as long as you did in a mouse infested house but you sure have a memory to look back at sometime! And at least they had chocolate there!
    Nancy recently posted…I Made it to Hawaii!My Profile

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 11:33 am

    What an interesing learning. So now I have the idea how kiwis are sorted. Haha. Not a bad job after all.

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I don’t think I’m cut out for this but it makes for a great story! So many of my friends have picked fruit in NZ and Oz– crazy stories!

  • Reply
    Susan cooper
    May 23, 2016 at 7:41 pm

    That’s really interesting. Whenever I hear of someone working on a line with a conveyor belt going by, I picture that episode of I Love Lucy in the chocolate factory. At least with chocolates you could pop them in your mouth if you got behind, wouldn’t work do well with kiwis. Interesting experience though.
    Susan cooper recently posted…Bogle Winery Cabernet Sauvignon: #WineMy Profile

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 9:18 pm

    Wow! This sounds interesting – I’d definitely give it a go, I do all sorts of travelling jobs to stay afloat. Glad you got a bit of a mix with packing not just kiwis, but oranges and limes!
    Claire recently posted…The Clumsy Girl’s Guide to Travelling the WorldMy Profile

  • Reply
    May 23, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Interesting story. When in New Zealand I tried to buy kiwis in the supermarket but they only proposed me kiwis from Italy 🙁

  • Reply
    Tom Stevenson
    May 23, 2016 at 10:45 pm

    This makes me a bit better about working in construction for 10 months in Christchurch! I could not have survived that job, fair play to you! Keri Keri, if I remember correctly, isn’t there a juice company called that in NZ?

  • Reply
    Tom Stevenson
    May 23, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    This makes me feel slightly better about working in construction for 10 months in Christchurch. No way I could have done this job, fair play to you! Isn’t there a juice company called Keri Keri in NZ? This article would explain that if it’s the case!
    Tom Stevenson recently posted…The crazy time we were working for gypsies!My Profile

  • Reply
    Danielle Des
    May 25, 2016 at 1:05 am

    Sounds like you were working seriously long hours but I’m happy to hear that you would do it again.

  • Reply
    Hang Around The World
    June 7, 2016 at 8:44 am

    This is crazy but at the same time really interesting. It’s also a way to know about the local culture 😉
    Hang Around The World recently posted…AmsterdamMy Profile

  • Reply
    July 10, 2016 at 2:10 pm

    Nice post! Glad you did this experience, I probably would too. Part of travel is sometimes getting in the trenches with the locals, good & bad.

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