Conservation volunteering—help nature help you

Department of Conservation —  12/09/2016

The theme for Conservation Week is Healthy Nature Healthy People, encouraging people to think about the benefits that nature provides us.

Volunteers from the Motutapu Island Restoration Project share their experiences volunteering for conservation.


The Motutapu Island Restoration Project is the largest ecological restoration conservation endeavor in New Zealand. For 20 years dedicated volunteers have been transforming the island into a paradise for native plants, birds and wildlife through an intensive planting programme and the world’s largest island pest eradication programme. Motutapu, which is situated in the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park and linked by causeway to Rangitoto, was declared pest-free in 2011 and is now home to many rare and beautiful native birds.

Motutapu Island. Photo: Motutapu Restoration Trust.

Motutapu Island

Bridget Winstone started volunteering at Motutapu 14 years ago and spends up to four days a week on the island during winter. She says volunteering helps her switch off from the hustle and bustle of the city and improves her health and wellbeing. “I enjoy the physicality of the work, connecting with like-minded people and knowing that I am leaving something for future generations, it’s extremely rewarding on so many levels.”

Belinda Vernon started volunteering at the same time as Bridget and soon got hooked. “It’s powerful to see that individuals can really make a difference and by joining forces with others you can achieve an awful lot. On our planting days one person can plant 10 plants. When there are 100 of us that’s 1000 native plants, it’s all about the power of numbers.”

Bridget Winstone and Belinda Vernon on Motutapu Island.

Bridget Winstone and Belinda Vernon

Our modern lives may be getting busier, but that hasn’t led to a decrease in volunteer numbers on Motutapu. Over the years their database of volunteers has grown to over 3000, due partly to corporate volunteer days. There is a waiting list for the next two public volunteer planting days.

Former secondary school teacher trainer Mary Flaws has been volunteering at Motutapu since 2001. She says the experience has taught her so much about nature, heritage and tikanga Māori. “I’ve also met so many different cultures and people of all ages drawn out to help on the island. My young Grandson comes with me and he loves it too. It’s good for him to get off his phone, although there were Pokemon on Motutapu would you believe?’

Volunteers on Motutapu Island. Photo: Motutapu Restoration Trust.

Volunteers on Motutapu Island

Studies show that children who spend time outdoors demonstrate more creative and imaginative play, are generally healthier and have a greater respect for themselves and appreciate the environment more. So, even if they’re chasing Pokemon—getting them outside has major benefits!


Volunteer for conservation

Volunteers play a vital role in conservation in New Zealand, whether they’re working with DOC or other community conservation groups.

You can volunteer for conservation to help protect out natural environments and experience the benefits of nature for yourself!