The big Kiwi ‘OE’ is looking a bit different these days.
Keen to attract staff to fill the dearth left by overseas workers unable to get to New Zealand this winter, NZSki worked hard to entice young Kiwis from further north to head south on a winter ‘OE’ to work on its ski areas.
It appears to be working – well, for Auckland-raised snowboarder and student Jess Geaney, 20, and Wellington hospitality worker Ivy Skelton, 26, anyway.
While technically they’ve travelled ‘overseas’, as in Cook Strait, it’s not quite Canada, where Jess had been headed, or Austria, where Ivy was off to.
However, both Queenstown and its surrounds closely resemble, or may be even more beautiful than, some mountainous parts of North America and Europe and both girls are loving the experience so far.
It beats staying in the city for Jess, who’ll be working in The Remarkables Ski Area rentals department, after missing out on her rentals work secured at Blackcomb Resort in Whistler due to Covid disruptions last year. ”I wasn’t sure what was going to happen and I wanted to get out of Auckland,” says Jess, who’s hooked on travel. “I found out about Queenstown Resort College and its adventure tourism management internships.” She’s been studying at the college since January and will work up the mountain until October when Jess has her sights set on an Aussie summer working before returning to QRC to complete her studies next year. “It’s definitely been like an OE coming here,” she says. “There’s the aspect of leaving everyone behind, everyone’s new, there’s the awesome scenery and I’ve had little trips away to Wanaka and Dunedin.”
She says she’s discovered her own ‘backyard’ is not bad after all. “We’ve still got the mountains and snow and a change of scenery. It’s definitely been worthwhile. I’m so happy I did it.”
However, born in Bermuda to a Kiwi dad and English mum, there’s still travel in the blood, ideally Canada again and working on superyachts in Europe.
Jess takes a Queenstown ‘OE’ adventure initiation leap from the Ledge Bungy, high above Queenstown.
For Ivy, who was heading to Austria to work just before lockdown last year, the south has been a wonderful escape from the city. With 10 years in hospitality, she says her hometown of Wellington was becoming a bit “boring” after last year’s main lockdown. Ivy was assistant general manager at Olive on Cuba Street. “The whole scene had changed. It was so quiet,” she says. “Every time Level 2 happened there was a big fiasco getting everything ready. The nights were so quiet.” So she went in search of warmer, more guaranteed work. That saw her, and a friend from Olive, kiwifruit and apple orchard thinning in Gisborne, followed by a cherry picking stint in Roxburgh.
“Now that the weather’s colder the only good place to be is Queenstown,” she says. In the meantime, Ivy’s been working at Milford Sound, housekeeping and waitressing.
At the end of last month (May) she started her work as food and beverage team leader for NZSki at The Remarkables. “Now that everything’s settled down, I’m ready to get back into hospitality.”
Ivy celebrates the start of her Queenstown winter OE.