Ahu māra


$7.1 billion

annual export earnings (updated Dec annually)


average workforce


of filled kiwifruit roles are part year


winter peak vineyard workers

What is the horticulture sector?

Horticulture includes apples, wine, kiwifruit, vegetables, horticultural plant nurseries, flower-growing, mushrooms, berries, stone fruit, citrus, olives and nuts.

This information expands on and interprets our data visualisation for all sectors. You can filter these visualisations by sector and parts of it, like processing or production.

How many work in horticulture?

Data for year ending 31 March 2022.
Data for year ending 31 March 2022.
Designation Count
Core production 35,075
Core processing/manufacturing 26,192
Strongly connected 4,117
Relevant 256
Total 64,815

Designation workforce counts won't necessarily sum to the total - some people may work in more than one designation. The total indicates the overall unique average number of people who work in the sector. 

Seasonal change: Workforce over a year

Our data visualisations show average workforce counts across a year for the horticulture sector:

Many food and fibre sectors have seasonal employment patterns, but in horticulture the amount of seasonal workforce change is greater.

Keep in mind when interpreting horticultural workforce numbers:

  • Workforce demand varies much between crops. Peak demand times for many crops is harvest and processing, but also for other seasonal work. Workers need different skills for different seasonal tasks.
  • Crops experiencing peaks at different times creates a misleading picture of stable labour demand. With crops varying between regions, high demand for people and skills also move around the country.
  • For some crops, growers contract specialist providers to carry out seasonal tasks. This means that the seasonal horticulture workers are employed by the specialist providers, and may be found elsewhere in the data. Many of these specialist providers will be included under Cross sector core production.

Role and skill levels

MPI and NZIER's report 'The food and fibre workforce: Data on its size and composition' from June 2022 sets out the proportion of managers, semi-autonomous and managed staff in the horticulture sector.

Apples and pears

Core production

We grow most apples and pears in Hawke's Bay and Nelson.

Around half of workers are managed, a quarter are managers and a quarter semi-autonomous.

The large managed workforce is mostly contract pickers, thinners and pruners. Many contract orchard workers also work post-harvest, providing them with year-round jobs.

Most orchards are owner-operated, meaning a high number of managers.

Core processing/manufacturing

The full-year apple and pear processing workforce is made up of semi-autonomous workers and managers. The rest are part-year, managed roles.


Avocados New Zealand reports around 1,800 avocado orchards averaging 3.7 hectares, but some are very large – over 100 hectares. Most avocado workers are managers.

Avocado orchards need a stable workforce. Each tree is harvested twice a year. Picking for the domestic market happens all year round and for the export market between the end of July and January. This gives pickers potential employment for longer periods. Combined with other jobs, they can be full-year workers for domestic-market orchards.

Viticulture and winemaking

Viticulture is vineyards mainly growing table or wine grapes. We've included cider, wine vinegar, or other alcoholic beverages, with wine making, but not beer and spirits.

Marlborough dominates wine production with Hawke’s Bay a distant second. New Zealand Wine estimates around 700 wineries and a similar number of growers. Most wineries are small, around 1 in 10 medium-sized and a few large. Contract growers produce around half the volume of grapes.

Most permanent workers are managed or semi-autonomous. Many smaller wineries and contract grape growers means more managers.

The grape-growing cycle means large numbers of part-year workers with peaks throughout the year.

  • Summer peak in November and December sees nearly 3,000 workers involved in bud, flower, and vine control
  • Peak wine production in March and April needs nearly 3,000 workers a month. Most vineyards outside Marlborough will hand-pick at harvest, from February to April.
  • Winter peak between May and September needs over 4,000 workers a month for winter pruning and vine maintenance.

Winter pruning is the peak seasonal task. The industry also needs many more seasonal workers for cellar hand roles, hospitality, winemaking and other activities between January and May.

Wine bottling

Some wineries bottle in New Zealand, others export unpackaged wine and some do both. Marlborough, Hawke's Bay and Auckland bottle the most wine.

Reasons to export unpackaged wine include:

  • taking advantage of demand surges
  • developing relationships with suppliers
  • sustainability
  • reduced cost
  • reduced risk such as earthquake damage.

Wine bottling services include transportation, export certification laboratories, packaging, logistics and supply chain management. Most wine bottling employees are managed.


Core production

We grow most kiwifruit in Bay of Plenty. Managed, part-year workers make up almost the whole workforce.

Core processing/manufacturing

Nearly 9 in 10 kiwifruit processing workers are managed part-year workers. The packhouse also has more manager roles than semi-autonomous roles, with manager roles associated with specialist responsibilities.

Packhouses also employ business support workers. Nearly half are semi-autonomous and around 1 in 5 are managers.


Summerfruit includes growing apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches and plums.

Core production

The summerfruit industry covers over 3,000 hectares. Most orchards grow more than one summerfruit. Some have packhouses. Central Otago and Hawke's Bay grow most of New Zealand's summerfruit.

An average 20-hectare orchard has few permanent jobs – probably just an owner-operator, a permanent worker and an office worker or unpaid spouse doing the books.

At seasonal peak in January the workforce swells to over 4,000, mainly picking cherries. Contract pickers include supervisors who work with owner-operators. Packhouse operations, pruning and thinning happen from January to April.

Vegetables – uncovered crops

Most uncovered crop vegetable produce is for the domestic market. It includes asparagus, beans, brassicas, carrots, potatoes, pumpkin and other crops.

Over half of the workforce is managed and the rest splits evenly between managers and semi-autonomous workers.

Vegetables – covered crops

Covered crops include tomatoes, capsicums, chillies, lettuce, cucumbers, flowers, table grapes and others.

Including processing and production, nearly all staff are managed. Around 1 in 10 are managers and about the same number are semi-autonomous.

Careers in horticulture

Businesses included in the horticulture sector

Core production

Nursery production (under cover)
Nursery production (outdoors)
Turf growing
Floriculture production (under cover)
Floriculture production (outdoors)
Mushroom growing
Vegetable growing (under cover)
Vegetable growing (outdoors)
Grape growing
Kiwifruit growing
Berry fruit growing
Apple and pear growing
Stone fruit growing
Citrus fruit growing
Olive growing
Other fruit and tree nut growing
RSE workers found elsewhere in ANZSIC06 codes (aggregation)

Core processing/manufacturing

Fruit and vegetable processing
Wine and other alcoholic beverage manufacturing
Packaging services (packhouses)
Other warehousing and storage services (coolstores)

Strongly connected

Potato, corn and other crisp manufacturing
Fruit and vegetable wholesaling


Soft drink, cordial and syrup manufacturing