Students get down and dirty in the War on Weeds

Department of Conservation —  20/06/2017

It’s National Volunteer Week and we’re honouring the selfless souls who volunteer for conservation—highlighting the diversity of conservation volunteers and volunteer opportunities around New Zealand.

By Catherine Hosted – DCC/DOC Volunteer Projects Facilitator, Dunedin 

Each February, an influx of students hits the streets, flats and Halls of Residence of Dunedin. This year, the Dunedin City Council (DCC), Save the Otago Peninsula (STOP) and the Department of Conservation (DOC) teamed up to deal to Dunedin’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ in a way that captured the needs and interests of the student volunteers who did the hard yards.

Volunteers Ahead! Volunteers engaging in the War on Weeds in Woodhaugh Gardens

The DCC/DOC Shared Volunteer Project Facilitator, Catherine Hosted, used the students’ enthusiasm to explore the area, combined with the historic rivalry between Halls of Residence, to set the students against each other to battle for the title of “War on Weeds Wipeout Champion”.

Students from Aquinas Hall made a great dent in the Darwins Barberry Clump

“Creating a competition is a great way to keep people motivated on what can be a repetitive and demanding task. Rivalry between Halls is a big deal in Dunedin, so the added bonus of prizes and a prestigious title are a great motivation” said Catherine.

A workplace with a view. Arana Hall demolishing Darwins Barberry on the Otago Peninsula

Over 75 students from Arana, Cumberland, and Aquinas Halls of Residence battled for the title by helping tackle two of the Dirty Dozen Weeds – wilding conifers and Darwin’s barberry, in the hills around Dunedin.

The challenge was also an opportunity for the students to see first-hand some of the conservation issues that face Dunedin. “This city is going to be home for many of our residents for the next few years, and it’s important to get them out to unique locations and let them contribute to the local community” said Alex Blair, Arana Hall of Residence Sub-Warden.

Quality control was taken more seriously by some than others…

The success of the event highlighted the effectiveness of developing opportunities that are driven by the interest of the target audience, as well as showing how successful a collaborative community approach to conservation can be. Competition, and DCC, STOP and DOC working together, led to an enthused army of students engaging in the War On Weeds, and a model for future O-Weeks.

4 responses to Students get down and dirty in the War on Weeds


    What an excellent way of harnessing youthful enthusiasm and combining it with what is bound to be a bonding exercise!

    Jane Hughes 20/06/2017 at 9:27 am

    What a great idea!