Overnight Island Volunteer Experience

Department of Conservation —  23/07/2013

By Trish Irvine, Community Relations Ranger, Auckland

It takes a bit of organising to have volunteers follow biosecurity rules and be at various wharves around Auckland to meet the DOC boat for our ‘Overnight Island Volunteer Experience‘ on Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands.

Rangitoto Island from the mainland.

Volunteers contribute and learn about pest free Rangitoto and Motutapu Island projects

The five volunteers on this particular trip—a retired man who regularly volunteers for DOC, a couple from overseas on a working holiday, a teacher and a university student—are all keen, and want to contribute and learn about pest free Rangitoto and Motutapu Island projects. Volunteer numbers are increasing as word gets out about what DOC has to offer.

It’s a Thursday morning and I am running along Quay St to get to Pier 3 before 7.45 am. The DOC boat ‘Taikehu’ and Chris Giblin the skipper are already moored and the volunteers are waiting on the pontoon. I welcome them and check them off my list.

Volunteers digging out a historic structure.

Digging out a historic structure

We do a quick biosecurity check and zoom off to Devonport Yacht Club jetty to meet the rest of the team and load our work gear onto the boat. The ranger, Nigel Harper, joins us—loading our tools and kete of tea, coffee, milk and fresh home baking.

It is a calm clear day as we cruise the Hauraki Gulf to Islington Bay wharf on Rangitoto, where Rodway the Island Ranger meets us and has a DOC ute waiting. We drive to the Blue House, our home for the night, unload our gear and have a cuppa over a health and safety briefing and introduce the programme for the day.

At the summit loop track on Rangitoto we continue the work to maintain the historic structures that were cleared of vegetation on our last overnight trip. This time we dig out soil, spray some environmentally friendly moss and lichen remover, and sweep the boardwalk of leaves. Nigel takes measurements to make a cover for the drainage hole.

At the Fire Command Post on the summit of Rangitoto we climb onto the roof for magnificent views of Auckland and to sweep and scrape it clean of lichen and debris. We feel like we are on top of the world having such a beautiful lunch spot. The Post gets a coat of a tar-like sealant to waterproof it after lunch, and we do the same to the radio room, which is looking great with a new wooden floor.

A ranger and a volunteer hard at work restoring a structure on the island.

Hard at work

Driving back to the house we feel like we have the island to ourselves; it is so peaceful, there is no one else about. Nigel starts the fire that warms the whole house and we settle in for the evening.

The next day we clean the Blue House and pack up our gear so we can spend as much time as possible at the WWII Battery on Motutapu. Here we clear the drains, scrape the steel, work with wire brushes and apply fish oil to stop it corroding further. All before dashing back to the house, washing the tools and utes, and collecting our gear.

Chris and the ‘Taikehu’ are at the wharf to transport us back to Auckland—we’re feeling revitalised, alive and buzzing from such an awesome trip.

Volunteers scraping steelworks on the battery.

Scraping metal on the battery

The ‘Overnight Island’ experience is one of a number of volunteer opportunities on offer in Auckland. Many individuals, corporate groups, university students and overseas travellers have participated so far.

The next Overnight Island restoration trip is proving to be popular—it is already fully booked with a few people on the waiting list.


Volunteer with DOC

Being a volunteer is fun. You also get to work as part of a team, share your skills and learn new ones, and experience conservation in action. Visit the DOC website to volunteer with DOC.