Finding a job in New Zealand
Updated: May 4, 2020
When I first decided I was going to get a working holiday visa for New Zealand I wanted to live in either Wellington or Queenstown. After a bit of research I decided it would probably be Wellington which I would settle in as it would be easier for me to find a job (bigger place and more of them). Before I got to New Zealand I was trolling through job websites, I was looking for jobs anywhere but with Wellington in the back of my mind. I noticed that there seemed to quite a few opportunities in a place called Nelson. My two friends Char and Lotte had lived and worked in Nelson once we all parted ways on my first visit to NZ so I asked them for advice. They told me all about the nature and scenery in Nelson and how far away it was from other spots on the south Island and they convinced me that Nelson seemed like a good place for me to try out - so after a week in Wellington (where I decided it was too windy for me to settle there anyway) I moved to Nelson with the idea of staying here for a month or so and see if I liked it and could find a paying job.
I arrived at Bridge Backpackers and started woofing there the day after I arrived. I had previously arranged to work for accommodation with them once I decided to spend 4 weeks in Nelson and because I'm a forward planner and proper keen I emailed ahead - but hostels are generally always looking for housekeepers as there is such a high turn around of staff. When I arrived in Nelson I saw the sea and the rolling hills of the Grampian Mountains along the Nelson skyline and knew I would like it here.
Nelson is situated at the top of the South Island, about an hour and a half away from Picton where the ferry from the North Island docks and about an hour away from the amazing Abel Tasman National Park. It is a small city, with one main street of shops and restaurants and one main street of bars but it has so much more to offer. The beach is a 20 minute cycle ride away and despite local opinion, I think it is beautiful, but that is probably because I compare every beach to Scarborough so my bar is set pretty low! It is known as Sunny Nelson and considering I've only experienced approx 7 days of rain in the more than two months I've been here I'd say it deserves that reputation - another reason I've decided to stay. If you want constant nights out and busy atmosphere then Nelson isn't the place for you. But that is not what I am looking for. Yes I love a drink and I like the few bars there are here but it is never gonna be the reason I choose to settle somewhere. I like the people I work with, I live with fab people who have respect for me and each other and the hostel I am in is the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in - aka the kitchen doesn't make me wanna die and I can actually cook in it without gagging. I am surrounded by nature and beautiful walks and I can walk or cycle everywhere I need to. I can pop to Abel Tasman on my days off - my favourite part of New Zealand, and I can hire a car for weekend trips to Golden Bay or Kaikoura - Kaikoura is on my list for 2 weeks if everything goes to plan an the weather is going to be good.
After the final 4 months of 2018, living in rural Cambodia it is not a shock to me that I have chosen to settle in Nelson and not Queenstown which maybe a younger me would have chosen (obviously if I had job guarantee there then this might a different story but it is more expensive to stay there whilst looking for a job and there's less real New Zealand culture there but that's just my opinion).
Opening up a Bank Account
I read up about opening a bank account as much as I could before I arrived in New Zealand. I was told that you couldn't get a job with an IRD number and you couldn't get an IRD number without a bank account - which all sounded very foreign and confusing to me and none of the information I read is what I actually experienced.
When I arrived in Wellington I went to Westpac bank to find out what I would need to open up an account. A lovely lady told me I would need proof of a New Zealand address, which would be either a letter by the accommodation I was staying in or a letter written by my friend Danielle who lives in Wellington. I would also need my 'tax number', passport number and visa info.
When I arrived in Nelson I went to Westpac to double check this info and to book an appointment. Here they told me they would not book me an appointment until I had a job and found out who my employer banked with and I would then have to bank with them...so completely different information from the exact same bank. So I sacked of Westpac and went to ANZ. Here they told me that I didn't need a letter of recommendation and that as long as I could access a bank statement from a none NZ bank which had my home address on it then that was enough - hallelujah for mobile banking - it was so easy! I got an appointment and gave them all the info they needed and within 15 minutes. Once you have your bank card you need to then put money on it, and go and buy something in order to then get the bank to print you a statement. You will need this for your IRD application. You will receive your IRD number within about 2 working days and this number is the number you need to get paid in New Zealand. It is a long process as bank appointments are hard to come by - I had to wait a week, so it is worth forward planning if you get a job right away as in New Zealand you get paid weekly.
Note 1: when they say tax number they don't mean your tax code they mean your national insurance number - might seem obvious to some but it wasn't to me so I made my sister search for my most recent pay slip to find my tax code and went armed with both and didn't even need my tax code haha sorry Vick.
Note 2: Unsure about other banks but at ANZ they offer you an initial card for free, which allows you to withdraw money and pay for things inshore but it is not contactless and you cannot pay for things online. The card that allows you to do this is $10 and you should just get this straight away. I didn't and when I finally decided to order the card a month later, they sent it to my registered address in the fucking UK so my parents received the card and I then had to go into the bank and wait another week for a replacement. Yes I am an idiot and a cheapskate and should have just paid $10 at the start and got it there and then.
I applied for a range of jobs in the first 2 weeks of living in Nelson, most people I know who work here literally walked into cafes and restaurants and physically asked about jobs or handed in their CV and were successful at one of the places they went - it's very old school here. Having very little cafe/restaurant or bar experience other than working weddings at the Maze I looked for other opportunities first. And within two weeks I found a job which was perfect for me - as a supervisor at an afterschool activities organisation. They met me and offered me the job right away and trained me up as a supervisor. The hours work perfectly with my hostel job meaning I am now earning and not having to pay accommodation so I am able to save money for my trip around the South Island before I leave.
So my main tip is to not give up. Show your face around the place but also don't just stick to mainstream backpacker jobs - I don't work antisocial hours, I get paid for public holidays even though we don't work them and I really enjoy my job. I am immersed in local culture and we work with local refugee families as well so I am learning every day from the adults and children I work with!