Voluntourists help out in Oteake

Department of Conservation —  11/04/2013

Volunteers experienced hands on conservation work in vast golden tussock, under big open skies, when they removed fences in Otago’s Oteake Conservation Park recently.

Over three kilometres of fencing was taken out over a week, saving DOC $8000. The project was part of one of DOC’s volunteer conservation projects that run throughout the year.

Volunteers Francisca of Chile and Pierre of France standing by a fence.

Volunteers Francisca of Chile and Pierre of France

After a day of removing fences, the volunteers and DOC staff headed back to the nearby Tailings Hut, which was restored by volunteers last year. Evenings were spent preparing food, eating and socialising. Food—and the social experience around it—made up a significant part of the volunteer experience.

The volunteers all had different motivations; some wanted to experience the Oteake landscape that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to access (due to lack of confidence in backcountry driving, or not having a four wheel drive). Others wanted a new experience, and some were ‘voluntourists’—a term used to describe a new form of travel where tourists travel while assisting the community.

Volunteers Monica winding wire and Francisca feeding the wire.

Volunteers Monica winding wire and Francisca feeding

The volunteers spent the week removing staples and lightening rods (long pieces of metal between the posts), and manually hand-winding wire into coils for recycling. Removal of the lightening rods was the least-favoured task, with people jostling positions to avoid removing the frustratingly stubborn wire.

Safety is always a concern with volunteer projects, where people undertake an unfamiliar task in an unfamiliar environment. It was an interesting challenge to ensure participants wore the geeky looking glasses and handled the unpredictable wire.

Volunteers Francisca, Paul and Monica setting up the wire.

Volunteers Francisca, Paul and Monica setting up


DOC’s working holidays

DOC runs volunteer working holidays all over the country to allow New Zealanders and overseas visitors to participate in conservation projects. The 2014 programme will be released in June/July. See www.doc.govt.nz or visit your local DOC office for more information.