Getting involved – what motivates conservation?

Katrina Knill —  12/08/2009
About seven years ago, before I started working for DOC, I took a group of school children from Mangere, South Auckland, for a bush walk.  For many of them it was the first time they’d been out of suburbia – they were buzzing about being ‘in the wilderness’ and desperate to know the names of birds and traditional uses of plants.  It made me realise how lucky I’d been to grow up with bush in my backyard (literally) and how important it is to protect natural areas and make them accessible for people. 
Students from Te Puke Intermediate get involved at Kaituna wetland

Students from Te Puke Intermediate get involved at Kaituna wetland

I’m inspired and humbled on a daily basis by the people I get to work with.   Be they volunteers, DOC staff or other members of the community; there is an impressive amount of knowledge, experience and energy for conservation out there. I’ll being telling you about some of these people and the work they do in upcoming posts.
But do you have to be a bird expert, raving greenie, mountain goat or marine biologist to care about our forests, waterways, oceans and the creatures that live in them?  Do you need to be qualified or a member of a special club to get involved and make a difference to conservation?

I say no – anyone can plant a tree, kill a possum or pull a weed and make a difference.  But why would you want to get involved anyway? What’s the point of pulling weeds, killing pests and planting trees? 
Some people have completely selfless motivations and a genuine belief in the intrinsic value of our native species and habitats. Others simply enjoy the sense of belonging, exercise or socialising in a pleasant setting.  And some are motivated because they can see benefits to their property values, earning potential or savings through water & electricity generation, flood buffering, land stability, protecting their view or beach access. 
Whatever the motivation, everyone will benefit now and in the future from any work we do to protect and enhance the special places on our back doorstep.  

Otanewainuku neighbours get involved by putting their dogs through kiwi aversion training

Otanewainuku neighbours get involved by putting their dogs through kiwi aversion training

The facts about the threats and degradation of our natural areas and native species can be depressing and daunting, but the power of people is evident when you hear about and visit some of the success stories.

Some local examples include Otanewainuku Forest, Tuhua (Mayor Island), Uretara Estuary Managers, Waihi Walkways to name a few, and further afield are examples such as Maungatautari, Tiritiri Matangi, Hauturu (Little Barrier) and Leigh Marine Reserve

The efforts of volunteers, iwi, DOC, Councils etc. at these places has made a HUGE difference – they’ve re-established parcels of paradise, brought species back from the brink of extinction, brought communities together (sometimes through robust debate) and created recreation and education facilities, tourist destinations and in some cases, jobs.
There are lots of small and not so small things that individuals can do too – keep your vehicle off the dunes, dog under control or fence your stock out of a waterway.  Whatever your motivation it will be worth your while.

Every little bit helps so if you’re not already, get involved.  As a start point, check out our website for some groups in the Bay of Plenty that are looking for you:

Katrina Knill


I work for DOCs Tauranga Office, where I co-ordinate our public liaison efforts with stakeholders & the general public. I get to work with our staff and community groups as well as helping out in emergencies such as forest fires, whale strandings and dealing with injured birds, seals etc.