Part II – Operation Tidy Fox: Volunteer Q+A

Department of Conservation —  04/07/2019

In March the Fox River landfill partially washed away during an extraordinary flood event. Meet some of the amazing volunteers lending a hand at Fox River to help with the clean-up…

Jennifer Cook

Tell me about yourself and why you are here volunteering?

I’m living up in Rotorua at the moment. I work for a ziplining company and we do a lot of conservation work so I care about the environment but I actually spent my childhood coming to the West Coast a little further South from here, in the outdoors, fishing, on the beaches. I came down because I feel like this is my home and I wanted to clean it up and it was difficult watching other people do it from the cosy lounge in the North Island.

Where did you find out about this volunteering opportunity?

I heard about it on the news while the floods were happening and I saw an interview on the news with Mike and jumped on Facebook and had a bit of a scroll through to see how the progress was going and found out that there were low volunteer numbers and that’s the only way this problem is going to get solved, is people on the ground. So missioned down from the North Island to come and help for a week.

What kind of people do you most enjoy working with?

You know what the people that are here, are people that you wouldn’t normally encounter. There is a really eclectic bunch of people from all walks of life with a common passion and we have had some really interesting conversations and its actually probably the coolest part about being here is meeting all these people that are like minded and have a love for New Zealand. Even people that have travelled from overseas to be here are working here which is crazy.

What keeps you motivated on the tough days?

The views behind, the fudge and the need. It needs to  be done. That’s the only motivation you need, just look around and there is more rubbish so just do it.

Joe Lang

Tell me about yourself and why you are here volunteering?

I’m a New Zealander. I’ve been tramping since the 70’s. So to me our national environment is very important. The impact of letting something happen like this – it upsets me. If I was out walking in the bush and came across this I would be so annoyed. I came because I have time. I’m retired I have time to clean it up. I’m fit active and healthy so why wouldn’t I. It’s too bigger job for just the locals to clean up. If we don’t fix this one, we won’t fix the next one.

How much time will you be spending here in Fox?

Here for 5 days, probably going to come back.

What are/were your expectation for this volunteer position?

No expectations. We were coming anyway. If accom wasn’t available I still would have come. Fantastic the way they have organised it. Its good for volunteers. Well thought out it functions.

Would you recommend this volunteer experience?

Definitely yes I WOULD!

Phil Hardman

Tell me about yourself and why you are here volunteering?

I read about this on the news, about the bridge being washed out and the dump being taken out as well. And I got keyboard warrior on it, asking a few questions, like who in there right mind would put a landfill next to a river. I realised just how much trouble this place was in and thought I would put my feet where my fingers were and come up and check it out. I got in touch with Mike Bilodeu and with the space of an hour he said “when can you get here?”. So I had my backpack ready to go and I left the next day. When I arrived the extent of the carnage absolutely blew me away. It was like nothing I’d seen before, well actually, I used to go to the tip with my old man and it looked a lot like that. So at that point I thought I would stick it out and see it go right through until the end because this is going to need as much help as it can get.

What kind of people do you enjoy working with?

I like the people that I have met. There is some really really cool people, they come and go because they all have their own lives and their own things to do but they all want to be here. No one is being paid to be here. No one has to be here. Everyone who is volunteering wants to be here to help out. They all bring their own stories, their different backgrounds , different parts of the world of  New Zealand and it’s the comradery of people is just amazing, there is never a dull moment.

What do you do during your free time?

Enjoy the area, we have one of the most special valleys, 2km out of town up the Fox valley to the Fox glacier. Absolutely gorgeous. It is well worth while getting in there. Welcome flat with the hot pools, very special place. Nice bars and restaurants to go to in Franz, they have the hot pools there. In fox we have quiz night on a Wednesday night and there is football on a Thursday night.

What keeps you motivated on the tough days?

If I’m having a tough day I stop what I’m doing I look up at the mountains and I ground myself and realise why I’m here and then get back into it.

We need your help!

Operation Tidy Fox is a massive push to clean up the Fox River. We’re looking for loads of volunteers to help. We are supplying accommodation, lunch and dinner. Volunteers will also be transported to and from the work area.

It’s a great opportunity for you to contribute to an environmental project, have fun with other volunteers, and explore the beautiful West Coast!

Register as a volunteer at or contact if you have any questions.

Check out Part I of our Volunteer Q+A

One response to Part II – Operation Tidy Fox: Volunteer Q+A


    Well done, volunteers ! I can’t express how much I appreciate your efforts.