working a NZ winter
It's one of the less fun parts of doing seasons, finding a decent job and a good place to stay is a pain - but it's gotta be done and can influence the success of your whole winter season.
Finding work in NZ is no different. In some ways finding work independently is easier than Europe, there are no language barriers and resorts are not resorts as such but more like towns providing more opportunities for employment. On the other hand there are no major ski companies, so the whole ski package with everything handed to you on a plate is not really available.
How to get a visa
First and foremost it's pretty important and also pretty easy to sort yourself out with a working holiday visa. These are generally applied for from the UK and take about 2 - 3 weeks to process via post or can be arranged directly from the NZ embassy in London on the same day. The visa costs £35 and allows you to work in NZ for up to a year.
Applying before you leave
If you're wanting to arrange employment before heading out to NZ applying for work on one of the ski fields is the best idea. Application forms are available over the web for the largest mountains (eg Treble Cone, Ruapehu, Coronet Peak, Remarkables and Cardrona).
Working for a ski field means you are provided with a free lift pass, get guaranteed riding time everyday, you're transported to and from work and are involved in a hardcore partying social scene. Not a bad package - hourly rates of pay may be a bit less than other jobs in town (around $9/hr) but is made up for through free perks and also being paid whilst travelling to and from work.
Finding work when you arrive
If you're not too fussed what you do, finding work once you arrive is not too difficult - however finding a job that allows you to ride all day and that you'll enjoy is. Evening work in Queenstown is fairly abundant because the town is so big and swamped with bars and restaurants. Try Addstaff, an agency in the centre of Queenstown.
Towns like Ohakune and Wanaka are a lot smaller and finding evening work (allowing you to ride all day) is really hard. I attended an open invite interview for a single bar job in Paddy's bar, Wanaka at the start of last season and was joined by at least 35 others after the same position! Cleaning jobs are always available wherever you end up, but are also morning jobs so not ideal.
When to start looking
Timing when you arrive to start the job search is also difficult to get right. Between Easter and the start of the season Ohakune and Wanaka are pretty much deserted. Businesses are not keen to take on new employees until the season takes off, so arriving extra early doesn't always help - although at least you'll get your face recognised around town a little. Queenstown, again is different - being a fairly busy place all year round work is always available, it shouldn't even be too hard to score jobs in the most popular and fun places in town.
There's also a lot of opportunities for more skilled labour (this applies more to the guys than the girls). Skilled/manual labour is abundant in all the previously metioned areas, especially Wanaka and Queenstown due to the rate of expansion here.
Building, painting, electrical and plumbing work are all really well paid, provide flexible hours and generally fun working environments. If you manage to pick your boss well you'll still get quality riding time; an electrician friend of mine has it in his contract that he's allowed 2 freshie days off a week throughout the winter season!
But arrive prepared...
You'll always find work in the end, it's just a case of being persistent and maybe putting up with a job you're not too happy with until a better one comes your way.
Ideally come over from the UK with as much in your bank account as possible. You'll feel rich spending your pounds over here and if you plan it right your UK funds should last a large portion of the season, so you can afford to be more picky about how much and what kind of work you end up doing.
Report by Zoe Watson, Resort Reporter, Wanaka, NZ