Archives For volunteers

Today’s photo of the week is of two newly hatched dotterell/tūturiwhatu chicks in their nest on a Bay of Plenty beach.

Their camouflaged eggs are laid in a scrape in the sand, and can be easily crushed by beach goers as they’re sometimes hard to see.

Newly hatched dotterel chicks in a nest on a beach. Photo: Mithuna Sothieson.

DOC is looking for volunteers in the eastern Bay of Plenty area to get involved with the conservation of our feathered shore friends.

Volunteers will need to be able to commit for the duration of the shorebird season which runs from September to February. More information is available on the DOC website.

Photo by DOC Services Ranger Mithuna Sothieson.


The Taranaki Young Conservationists group empowers young people to engage with conservation through a social, fun approach. Co-founder Dion Cowely tells us about the work they do…

Dion standing on a hill at Rotokare Sanctuary.

The beautiful Rotokare Sanctuary

What does your group do?
We provide the opportunity for young people interested in conservation to network with like minded people in a social setting (the pub) and get involved in local restoration projects.

Who can join?
Anyone who wants to, but we focus on attracting young people (older than 18 and younger than 60).

What sparked you to form this group?
A couple of our founding members attended the local Forest and Bird meetings for a while and realised that there was no one attending under the age of 50. The chair of North Taranaki Forest and Bird encouraged them to start something up for young people and so the Taranaki Young Conservationists were born.

A clearing in the bush at Paraninihi (White Cliffs), Taranaki.

Paraninihi (White Cliffs), Taranaki

Do you work with other conservation groups in the community?
Yes, we have worked with the Rotokare Sanctuary, Tiaki Te Mauri O Paraninihi Trust and North Taranaki Forest and Bird on their respective projects.

What are you doing for Conservation Week?
Our Conservation Week event is more about fun than conservation. We are holding an R18 Cloak of Protection night. It’s a drinks and baking affair aimed to introduce adults to this popular card game commonly used by Enviroschools.

What is the best moment your group has had so far?
We had a good time helping out Conrad and the Tiaki Te Mauri O Paraninihi Trust with their pest control programme. We got to explore a remote and normally inaccessible part of Taranaki and Conrad was really stoked we helped out and provided a mean feed back at the marae after we had finished for the day. 

Trapping work at Paraninihi (White Cliffs), Taranaki.

Helping out Tiaki Te Mauri O Paraninihi Trust with trapping

Do you have any great conservation advice to share with our readers?
Our focus is to make conservation fun. If it’s not fun people are reluctant to give up their spare time.

How do I join?
Come along to one of our events. Simply like us on Facebook or email me at


By Moana Smith-Dunlop, Community Relations Ranger, Whakatane

Te Urewera, centre of the universe, now has the most beautiful hut in the universe too, thanks to the DOC-Dulux partnership.

Makomako hut after a DOC/Dulux makeover.

Makomako hut after a DOC/Dulux makeover

Not to be outdone by our Tauranga cohorts, our DOC/Dulux ‘paint a hut’ party also had a film crew — DOC’s talented Community Outreach Coordinator from Otago, Claudia BabiratMakomako Hut was sooo stunning she just had to come and enjoy the atmosphere and film the astonishing efficiency of our Visitor Assets and Community Relations teams!

Our team was made up of Jade Connelly (Visitor Assets power ranger and team leader), three volunteers (Gavin Muir, Waitangi Tait and Hikurangi Rurehe), and DOCies Moana Smith-Dunlop (Community Relations Ranger) and Earl Rewi (Programme Manager Visitor and Historic Assets).

Painting the hut.

Left: Hiks and Wai painting the deck. Right: Gavin and Wai starting the inside.

Makomako Hut lives below Maungapohatu in the Te Urewera National Park, and along the famous six foot track. While we were there, there was obvious sign of deer in the area, and the hut clearing looked almost good enough to be a golfing green. With a forecast of three days of sun we launched into the painting with a ferocity that stunned our intrepid film maker.

Makomako Hut before painting.

Makomako Hut before painting

Our colour scheme, the winning entry designed on the Dulux ‘paint a hut’ website, was:

Roof and front door: Porari
Outside walls: Tinkertown
Deck, windows and chimney: a beautiful shade of Masterton

By the end of day one, all our supplies and people had arrived at the hut and we’d completed the outside preparation and the first coat on the outside walls and roof. With the sun setting it was time to down tools, light the fire and get dinner going.

Day two saw the outside walls and roof finished, the first swathes of Masterton on the deck, the windows and chimney done, and the start and finish of the inside. By the end of day two all we had to do was a few touch ups on the outside.

Day three dawned clear, cold and full of promise that the end was near. So with that in mind, eating all the leftover food from the previous night’s dinner became our first task, as did teaching our southern friend the finer points of the northern lingo ‘chuurrr’. That done, we finished off the painting, cleaned up, packed up, kicked back and waited for the chopper to arrive to take us home.

Left: Group jumping for joy. Right: Makomako Hut sign.

Left: Moana, Jade, Gavin, Claudia, Waitangi, Hikurangi and
Earl at the conclusion of the painting. Right: Makomako Hut sign.

A mammoth effort by the team! Go team Te Urewera! We could not have got through all the work without the efforts of our hard working vollies.

Raoul Island is one of the Kermadec Islands, about 1000km north-east of New Zealand in the South Pacific Ocean. DOC have a small team of staff and volunteers who live on the island in relative solitude. Their main focus is controlling weeds on the island, maintaining infrastructure such as buildings, roads and tracks, and carrying out work for Met Service and GNS.

Since the island is so remote, we get these diary entries from the team and post them up on their behalf. Today’s diary is by volunteer Katie Grinsted.

Interested in becoming a volunteer on Raoul Island? DOC is recruiting for volunteers for August 2013 to February 2014 now. See for more information.

On our way

It has been just over a month since us five volunteers departed Auckland, waved goodbye to the world we knew, and began our life on Raoul Island. I have been to some pretty special places in my life but I think this may just take the cake. We are actually marooned on a (sub) tropical island. We’re stuck here with the volcanoes, the earthquakes, surrounded by sharks and we are lovin’ it!

The journey began with a five day crossing on the sailboat Ranui. Sometime on a Friday morning, the high cliffs of Hutchison Bluff appeared.  We were almost there!

Cripes! Look at this place! View of Raoul Island from the Ranui.

Cripes! Look at this place! View of Raoul Island from the Ranui

It seemed no time at all that we were onshore, after so long at sea firm ground felt like an illusion. Thankfully we were steadied by the welcoming arms of our new island mates. The nine Cruisers of Sunday Island united!

The island itself

Raoul Island is a beautiful place. Everyday as I walk around I try and take a moment or two to look around me and yell, more often out loud: “Woo hoo! So lucky to be here.”!

Despite being located so far from NZ, much of the flora and fauna here is identical or at least very similar, to NZ. The plant and animal life has had a boost with the removal of mammalian predators. The climate here is excellent for growing and everything here seems to shoot up so fast.

This is actually a five-finger tree for those of you who recognize it in NZ.

A five finger tree on Raoul Island.

Massive five finger tree. Woop!

What we do

With the animal pests removed it is now it is up to us to get rid of the other pests on the island – the unwanted plant species. Condemned for their lack of consideration for other plants, and their effects on the habitat of the animal species, the weeds on Raoul Island are the focus of the work here.

Volunteers weeding on Raoul Island.

Weeding – serious stuff on Raoul Island

The forest here is no walk in the park! Sometimes it is even a walk in a volcanic area!

Volcanic landscape on Raoul Island.

Volcanic landscape on Raoul Island

Yep! Weeding can take it out of you!

Volunteers lying on the beach.

Flat out on the beach after a hard day’s work


But it is a lot of fun and life isn’t all hard work! There are plenty of other things to entertain your average cruiser. There are the water sports – snorkeling in New Zealand’s largest marine reserve for example…

Three people diving in the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve.

Having fun in the Kermadec Islands Marine Reserve

And brewing high-quality beverages for another…

Volunteers check on the beer in the storehouse.

Checking out the brew

Then there are the forest sports. The other weekend we spent a night at the wee sky-blue Mahoe Hut before battling our way down a large dry waterfall to the coast. We emerged sweaty and exhausted but none the less, happy.

Mahoe Hut on Raoul Island.

Our weekend getaway, Mahoe Hut

And of course, there is the sport of ‘just cruisin’, a natural and accepted progression of island life…

Who could ask for more?

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 or visit your local DOC office for more information.

By Jane Dobson, Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy

Fresh to the Wellington-Hawkes Bay Conservancy, I heard about the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project in the Ruahines and an inspired volunteer team led by Janet Wilson. Needing to know more I contacted Janet and invited myself along on the January trap line check and rebait.

Oroua volunteers getting ready to head off.

Oroua volunteers with coordinator extraordinaire Janet Wilson: Jen James, Janet, myself, Henry Milne and Thierry Stokkermans

Janet arranged to meet us all at the Oroua River car park with equipment, advice and a refresh on DOC 200 traps. As beacons, maps, eggs and rabbit bait were split between packs, Janet told us about the previous weeks training where a man ‘just blanked’ and let his free hand slip and set off a trap. “That’s never happened before, he was lucky to get away with grazed knuckles. “Have fun and look after each other up there,” Janet looked at me. Apparently matching people with similar fitness levels is one of her many challenges.

Jen the Crossfit trainer, Henry the anaesthetist, and team leader/ mechanical engineer Thierry set off with me in tow. We planned to get to Iron Gate, split into teams to reach the Ngamoku Ridge tops and Triangle Hut, return to Iron Gate, then walk out the river line on Sunday. I reassured myself that I was fitter than I looked – for ‘a lady from the Wellington office.’ They’d been warned.

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops

Olearia colensoi, leatherwood, below the Ngamoko tops.

Jen and I headed up the ridge. The thought of an evening swim in the Oroua’s emerald pools propelled us from trap to trap. Before long we had an efficient leapfrog system. The beech trees, lime green crown ferns, glorious leatherwood and tussock covered tops made up for any squeamish moments with the stoat and rat carcasses. I even imagined rabbit ‘jerkey’ could be tempting if you were in a tight spot.

Thierry and Henry walked upriver spotting several trout AND a whio/blue duck perched on top of a DOC 200 trap in the river, with three young ducks nearby. Was this cheeky whio mocking the stoats from its macabre pedestal, or alerting Henry and Thierry to the missing trap.

The girls didn’t see any whio but were rewarded nonetheless with Guiness at dinner (fantastic leadership Thierry) and choice bombs on Sunday. The low river, blue sky and cool and clear  river made for a stunning walk out.

Total count: 13 stoats, 13 rats. 

January 2013, Team Oroua in action.

January 2013, Team Oroua in action

Meanwhile, Janet spent her Sunday checking the self-resetting traps up the Tunupo Stream, a tributary of the Oroua. In May 2012 volunteers helped install 37 of these new A24 traps made by NZ company Good Nature. They were bought with funding from the He Tini Trust and Horizons Regional Council. These traps don’t need to be checked as regularly as DOC 200’s, but need re-gassing every six months or so. A down side is there is no clear pest count – the dead critter tends to breakdown or disappear from under the trap.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats.

Jen James baiting for high-altitude stoats

Due to Janet’s nightly phone calls, training trips, constant advocacy and more, the project’s volunteer base is ‘committed and developing.’ Enthusiastic people are needed to prevent the situation the Manawatu Deerstalkers found themselves facing in 2011 with the same few people doing all the work. The coordination takes ‘AGES,’ Janet told me. ‘The Palmerston North tramping club is a great help, Manawatu Deerstalkers still help, the DOC newsletter Keep Tracking On advertises for volunteers. I also put notices in the huts with tear off numbers. We’ve got a committed but developing volunteer base. I’m investing in the training weekends, hoping it will pay off.’

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap.

Whio enjoying the view from a washed out trap

Janet won the 2012 Individual Manawatū Rangitīkei area Conservation Award, which recognised her on-going commitment to protecting wildlife through stoat control in the Te Potae o Awarua project, the Manawatu Gorge, and for rescuing the Oroua Blue Duck Protection Project from folding in 2011.

You’re an inspiration Janet Wilson – volunteer coordinator extraordinaire.

Click here to find out how to get involved.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream.

Evidence of an ‘A24’ trap kill up Tunupo Stream

Normally on a Friday we take you behind the scenes and into the jobs of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week, to celebrate Volunteer Awareness Week, we shine the limelight on volunteer Nigel Boniface…

Early days at Donnelly Flat – 1st mustelid catch

Name: Nigel Boniface.

Job description: A volunteer!


What type of volunteer work are you (mainly) doing?

Pest control (rats, stoats, and possums).

How many days/months/years have you been volunteering with DOC?

I started as a hut warden (probably) 12 years ago.

How did you come to be a DOC volunteer?

It seemed to be a good way to get your own private lock up room, help spread the word to pay hut fees, and assist other trampers with weather, routes, and local knowledge.

Nigel at Lonely Lake Hut

What is your most memorable DOC volunteering moment?

One evening, when hut wardening, two children came in to the hut to say mum had fallen off the track. I found her with another parent—she had fallen two metres and had recovered consciousness but was very groggy.

A doctor from the hut helped to diagnose broken bones etc. I made a radio call to a fellow SAR member who called the Police, and they arranged for the Life Flight helicopter to come in late at night (it was like the movie Apocalypse Now) and take the injured woman to hospital.

Who/what else would you try being for a day?

A crew man onboard the International Space Station.

Nigel and kahutara school children planting trees at Onoke spit
Photo by John Roades

What is your favourite area of public conservation land and why?

Kahurangi National Park, it’s vast, there’s so much variety, and it’s usually so quiet.

In your ‘other’ life (when you are not volunteering), what do you enjoy doing?

Gardening and travelling (overseas or in New Zealand).

Where would we find you at 10pm on a Saturday night?

Heading for sleep, in a hut, a tent, a backpackers, or at home.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Being outdoors with friends
  2. New Zealand, after growing up in the UK
  3. Watching nature

Three pet peeves

  1. People who drop rubbish
  2. Those who turn a blind eye to pollution
  3. Poor drivers

Three foods

  1. Shepherds pie
  2. Fresh fish
  3. Almost anything someone else has prepared

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Movie – The World’s Fastest Indian
  2. Book – Michael King’s The Penguin History of New Zealand
  3. Album – Led Zeppelin II (very loud and just occasionally)

Nigel amongst a pile of rat traps getting cleaned
and prepped before going rat trapping

Deep and meaningful

What/who are you inspired by and why?

Volunteers in whatever endeavour. The country would be so much the poorer without them.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Every little bit helps, even if it is to just stop dropping litter.

Learn more: