Pixabay© Pixabay

New Zealand’s Biggest Industries

© Pixabay
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
Article Single Pages© NZPocketGuide.com
NZ Pocket Guide is 10 years old. Thank you for trusting us with your trip for over a decade!

3 Huge Industries in New Zealand

New Zealand’s got to make money. Considering how far away from the rest of the world NZ is, this doesn’t hinder its ability to export a lot of goods. In particular, it is the largest dairy and sheep meat exporter in the world. Experiencing farm life is an integral part of Kiwi culture and that is why many opt for farmstays and WWOOFing while travelling in New Zealand. With expanding cities and rebuilding the Canterbury region after the earthquakes, there is much promise in the construction industry. And because so many people want to see for themselves how awesome New Zealand is, this has boosted the tourism industry. In turn, there are plenty of opportunities arising in hospitality, transportation and entertainment venues. So with all that in mind, here are more details on New Zealand’s biggest industries.

What are the 3 Biggest Industries in New Zealand?

This mini-guide will go through the three big industries in NZ and what jobs backpackers can do in them.

  • Agriculture
  • Construction
  • Tourism

Pexels© Pexels

Agriculture Industry in New Zealand

Agriculture is New Zealand’s biggest industry. Overall, it generates 70% of NZ’s merchandise export earnings and 12% gross domestic product. New Zealand is the world’s largest exporter for dairy and sheep meat, which is evident as you drive past never-ending sheep and cow fields. A subindustry, horticulture, covers 121,000ha of New Zealand. The industry is worth NZ$5 billion including domestic sales and export, which includes sales of wine, kiwifruit and summer fruits. It also provides seasonal jobs perfect for backpackers.

Jobs in New Zealand’s Agriculture Industry

The agriculture industry has a skill shortage in certain jobs. By possessing skills in the following jobs you will find it easier to get a work visa in New Zealand: beekeeping, dairy, beef, pig farming, logging operations, agricultural science, animal science, biotechnology science, and viticulture.

A great way for backpackers to get some farming experience is through WWOOFing. You can see how a New Zealand farm is run while getting free accommodation and meals.

Other backpacker jobs include:

Find out what it’s like to work in horticulture in Working a Fruit Picking Job in New Zealand.

Pexels© Pexels

Construction Industry in New Zealand

Construction certainly is a growing industry in terms of jobs. There is a big demand for construction workers in the ever-growing Auckland and to help rebuild Christchurch and the surrounding Canterbury region after the 2010/2011 earthquakes.

Like agriculture, skilled construction workers will find it easy to get a work visa as many jobs are on the skill shortage list. While many are managerial positions, other jobs on the list include scaffolder (advanced), foreman and survey technician.

Jobs in the Construction Industry

Backpacker jobs in the construction industry:

  • Labourer
  • Carpenter
  • Bricklayer
  • Hammerhand
  • Painter
  • Plasterer
  • Welders
  • Joiners

Power Tip: An easy way to find jobs in the construction industry is through recruitment agencies. Find out more in What You Need to Know About Recruitment Agencies in New Zealand.

Pexels© Pexels

Tourism Industry in New Zealand

One in 11 New Zealanders work in the tourism industry. It is second to dairy farming in terms of foreign exchange earnings. Tourism is an interrelation of activity providers, transportation, hospitality and entertainment venues.

Jobs in the Tourism Industry

Backpacker jobs in the tourism industry:

  • Cleaner
  • Hotel or Hostel receptionist
  • Hospitality: bartender, waitress, etc.
  • Catering: chef or kitchen hand
  • Driver
  • Outdoor recreation guide
  • Tour guide

Don’t forget, we have loads of jobs in this very industry listed on the NZPocketGuide.com Job Board.

More Facts About Industries in New Zealand

  • New Zealand exported 291,302 tonnes of seafood in 2013
  • The tourism industry generates NZ$65.2 million per day in NZ
  • The hi-tech industry is the third-largest export earner in the country
  • 19.1 billion litres of milk was made in 2012
  • On average that’s 4,100 litres of milk per cow per year.


The information in this guide has been compiled from our extensive research, travel and experiences across New Zealand and the South Pacific, accumulated over more than a decade of numerous visits to each destination. Additional sources for this guide include the following:

Our editorial standards: At NZ Pocket Guide, we uphold strict editorial standards to ensure accurate and quality content.

About The Author

Robin C.

This article has been reviewed and approved by Robin, who is the co-founder of NZ Pocket Guide. With more than 15 years of experience in the New Zealand tourism industry, Robin has co-founded three influential tourism businesses and five additional travel guides for South Pacific nations. He is an expert in New Zealand travel and has tested over 600 activities and 300+ accommodations across the country.

Was this article useful?


Recommended For You