New Zealand Working Holiday (Part 28) : Working as a Packhouse Assistant at Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay

I enjoyed working as a blueberry picker at Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings because the job was relatively easy and the pay was good. However, the work was heavily dependent on the weather; rainy or bad weather days = no picking/work. 😭

Working as a packhouse assistant in the packhouse was a more stable and highly popular seasonal work option, so when the opportunity came for me to apply for the job as a packhouse assistant with Gourmet Blueberries Limited, I grabbed it and got the job! Woohoo!! 😀

P.s. I had work experience packing kiwifruits/avocados with SEEKA in Tauranga, Bay of Plenty for about two months. That bit of experience does help in landing me the packhouse assistant job.


Packhouse Assistant at Gourmet Blueberries Limited

I read the notice about the packhouse assistant vacancy at Gourmet Blueberries Limited’s official Facebook page and immediately applied for the position. For your info, the position was only available to existing blueberry pickers working with Gourmet Blueberries Limited for the 2016 – 2017 season.

Here’s a tip/an advice for you: If you are looking for a job with them, be sure to follow their Facebook page for employment opportunity updates. 😉

Without delay, I sent in my CV and found out that I got the job several days later. I love picking blueberries, but I was excited and looked forward to work in the packhouse because I was able to enrich my knowledge, learn and pick-up new skills and experiences.

Like all Gourmet Blueberries Limited’s employees, I had to go through an induction session before I could start work. Work commenced immediately afterwards and that was the beginning of my life as a packhouse assistant at Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand.


Gourmet Blueberries Limited’s packhouse in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
Awesome packhouse assistants at Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, NZ. From left to right: Marissa, Lu, Erika, Selina, Marcela, Selina (from Germany) and Mariano


Grading, Sorting & Packing Blueberries in the Packhouse

In the blueberry packhouse, we were divided into two teams/groups. Each individual was assigned with a specific, but not limited to only a task within the group. Among the tasks were emptying crates of blueberries into the machine, grading/sorting blueberries, packing blueberries into the boxes and stacking the boxes of blueberries for import/export.

I got to grade/sort blueberries on the grading table, alongside five other people in my team/group. Females are preferred for the job because it requires intense focus, concentration, good eyesight and fast hands to grade/sort the huge amounts of blueberries travelling rapidly on the grading table. I had a headache within my first hour into the job. It took some time for me to get used to the motion of the fast-moving travelling blueberries. After that, work was a breeze.

My job was to sort and pick out all the soft, red and imperfect blueberries, so that only good quality blueberries make it to the packaging stage. I also had to separate and pick out the rubbish from the blueberry pile that consists mostly of leaves and twigs. Twice, I got to pack the blueberries into their respective boxes for an hour or two. Any longer than that and I would probably collapse from exhaustion or unable to handle the astonishing lightning speed of the packing process that would most probably result in blueberries piling up and falling off the spinning table. 😜

And at the end of the day, we had to clean our workstations for hygiene and safety reasons.


Blueberries on the grading table @ Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
A blueberry packhouse assistant’s job include grading and sorting blueberries @ Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
Freshly-packed blueberries @ Gourmet Blueberries in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay. I felt proud to have contributed to the production of these beautiful blueberries. 😍


Excellent Work Environment, Friendly Supervisors & Awesome Colleagues

Depending on the amount of work available for the day, my colleagues and I were given three paid 15-minute smoko breaks and a half an hour unpaid lunch break for a full day’s work duration. We start work as early as 7am in the morning and usually finish work at 5pm in the evening. Sometimes, it was a half-day work. Sometimes, we finished earlier than 5pm. Work was from Monday to Friday, but could extend to Saturdays and Sundays as well.

Sometimes, we had the day off because there were no orders or blueberries to pack thanks to the rain or bad weather. During the peak season, work can end as late as 7pm at night – that was good news for us because we earn more that way. 😍 We were paid an hourly rate, minimum wage of NZD15.25 before it went up to NZD15.75 an hour + holiday pay.

The packhouse manager, supervisors, office/admin team and my colleagues (from Samoa, Malaysia, Argentina, Germany, Kiwi and even Easter Island) were an awesome bunch of people. We worked together to get things done and completed our tasks on time. Time flies when we were busy and had music to keep us going through the day. 😁👍


The smoko room at the blueberry packhouse @ Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay
Awesome colleagues and friends from the blueberry packhouse at Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay


In a Nutshell

It was a great experience to work as a packhouse assistant with Gourmet Blueberries Limited in Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. The pay was good, the people were awesome and the experience is priceless. I would not hesitate to go back and work there again in the future. 😊


Up next: Working Holiday Visa Extension – How I successfully extended my working holiday visa in New Zealand for an additional 3 months


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