Value in volunteering

By: Nina Mercer, Photography by: Supplied

Ever thought about getting involved in volunteering? NZMCD looks into a few motorhome-friendly options around New Zealand.

Do you enjoy combining a bit of physical work with socialising and at the same time making a difference to our environment? Maybe it’s time to think about doing some volunteer work as you travel. There are plenty of opportunities around New Zealand; it’s just a matter of finding something that suits you.

Port -Hills -Tree -Planting ---Christchurch -City -Council

Nowadays, many organisations rely on volunteers, whether it is conservation work and environmental projects, helping teach English to immigrants, or sorting and serving in second-hand shops. There is an endless demand for good volunteers but not all of these opportunities are suited for travellers, as many require being part of a regular roster. Here are a few ideas for the more nomadic of you out there.

Volunteering for the Department of Conservation (DOC)

Campground -Hosts ---Port -Jackson ---Credit -Herb -Christopher -DOC-

As an organisation, DOC relies on volunteers and the community to get work done. A variety of opportunities are available and DOC’s website is the first port of call for anyone interested in doing unpaid work with them.

Campground Hosts

The -Putangirua -Pinnacles -Campsite -on -the -South -Wairarapa -coast -is -an -idyllic -spot -for -a -volunteering -stint ---Credit -Nina -Mercer

This role seems too good to be true for those whose first love is exploring the campgrounds of New Zealand. It does require some pre-planning and formal application via the DOC website. Often, roles at more popular campgrounds are snapped up almost as soon as they are advertised.

Volunteers are generally needed from around September to March each year and the minimum stay varies from region to region. In the Coromandel, hosts must be available for a minimum of two weeks at a time, whereas other regions require a shorter commitment.

New volunteers are given a full orientation. Tasks include checking campers’ tickets and record-keeping, cleaning any on-site facilities, and providing information to visitors. With this in mind, it is good to either have some knowledge of the area and outdoor opportunities before you get there or make sure you go exploring early on in your visit.

Duties generally take up a couple of hours in the morning, with another wander around the campsite in the evening to meet new campers. Campsite volunteers usually need to supply their own accommodation. There are a few campsites that offer powered sites but most do not. Some of the island roles provide accommodation.

Hut Wardens

Being -a -volunteer -hut -warden -is -a -great -excuse -to -hang -out -in -some -of -the -most -beautiful -parts -of -New -Zealand -1---Credit -Nina -Mercer

If you don’t mind parking up the RV and heading into the hills for a few nights, this could be the perfect role for you. Again, you need to do your research and apply for roles well before you get to the area. A small amount of training will be required and there will be different expectations of how long you are able to commit to the role.

Some huts have separate hut warden facilities while others require you to share with other hut users. The role involves checking hut passes and tickets, keeping records, cleaning, and minor maintenance.

You do need to have a good level of fitness, as most of the time you will be required to tramp into the hut with a full pack.

Planting and weeding

Planting happens mainly over winter to ensure there is enough rain for the new plants to survive. DOC, along with many other organisations, organise a number of planting days over the winter months and subsequent weeding working bees, which stretch out over spring and summer. The best way to keep up to date with these opportunities is to check the DOC website or phone the local office when you get to town.

Find out more about volunteering at

Conservation Volunteers New Zealand

VOlunteers -from -all -walks -of -life -take -part -in -COnservation -Volunteers -NZ-projects

This organisation has been operating in New Zealand since 2006. It manages volunteer involvement in environmental and conservation projects, working in partnership with community, government, and non-government organisations.

A visit to their website can give you information on volunteering opportunities nationwide, and they have some pretty exciting projects going on. With offices in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and Punakaiki, Conservation Volunteers New Zealand offers one-day local projects as well as residential projects for which you can volunteer for one to 12 weeks.

Projects include species monitoring, habitat restoration, weed and pest control, rubbish clean-ups, track construction, fencing, and heritage restoration. Last year, volunteers planted 150,000 trees. The organisation has a number of native nurseries across the country and volunteers collect seeds for many of the plants subsequently planted.

Volunteer for a day—local projects

Volunteering -can -take -you -to -some -gorgeous -parts -of -NZ

Particularly useful for travellers, a list of community volunteer days across the country for the upcoming month is provided on Conservation Volunteer’s ‘volunteer for a day’ webpage. You can book a place on the activity online, but generally, you don’t need to book too far in advance, which gives you the opportunity to be a bit more spontaneous. Teams of up to 10 are given on-site training by a team leader. These single-day opportunities are free of charge. You can also find out what is happening on dates that you are free by calling 0800 567 686.

Residential volunteering

These are multi-day projects, with a minimum commitment of one week. A contribution towards transport, accommodation, and meals is around $40 per night. Currently, most volunteers are overseas youth, but the projects are open to anyone. With volunteers from a variety of backgrounds, it’s a great way to meet plenty of interesting people.

Making a difference

Track -maintenance -is -a -fun -voluteer -opportunity -too ---Credit ---Conservation -Volunteers -NZ

Conservation Volunteers New Zealand attracts people who want to make a positive impact on the environment they live in. "Volunteering is something that everyone can be a part of, and the best is that at the end of the day you can actually see the difference even a small group can make a change," says one volunteer.

And the benefit to individuals themselves is clear: "I started working to help the birds. The wonderful people I work with keep me going," says another.

Find out more at

Council led opportunities

Nothing -like -a -good -lunch -when -you 've -been -working -hard ---DOC

City and regional councils rely on volunteers to get parks and gardening projects done. There is a particular focus at the moment on riparian plantings to protect waterways. Once trees are planted, they again need to be ‘released’ of weeds regularly.

Council websites vary in how useful they are. Christchurch City Council has an excellent website and offers many opportunities; just search ‘volunteer events’ and you will come up with a detailed list of regular working bees.

Team -Leaders -induct -and -train -volunteers ---Credit -Conservation -Volunteers -NZ

With last year’s fires in the Port Hills, the valuable work of volunteers to replant the area cannot be understated. Council websites can also link you to community care groups that you may wish to get in touch with to see how you can help out while you are in the area.

It’s up to you

Somtimes -volunteering -can -get -a -bit -messy !-Credit ---Conservation -Volunteers -NZ

There are plenty of opportunities out there, and it just takes a little research to find the right one for you. Anything you choose to do is helping to protect and restore our unique environment in New Zealand.

Keep up to date with news by signing up to's free newsletter or by liking us on Facebook