Volunteering Bay of Plenty and the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust – working together 1 year on
The teams at the Otanewainuku Trust and Volunteering Bay of Plenty (VolBop) recently celebrated 12 months of working together – not with a big celebration but with a look back at what they had achieved together over the last year.
The Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust is a community-based voluntary charitable trust formed in 2002 aimed at protecting and restoring natural habitat and reversing the decline of the North Island brown kiwi in the Otanewainuku Forest. Its main objective is formalising pest eradication in the 1200 hectares of virgin bush they manage alongside the Department of Conservation just 20km south of Tauranga.
The trust had known for some time they were in need of some outside help to formalise the volunteering management processes and to bring structure to a number of the operational procedures. Hans Pendergrast, the Trust’s Chairman, says “VBOP had started helping with volunteer recruitment, so coming on board to help with the next stage was a natural progression”, says Hans.The forest has been protected from milling since 1887 which has allowed hundreds of indigenous plants and trees to flourish including rimu and rare king ferns. It provides homes for native birds such as tui, falcons, kokako and other fauna as well as the famous kiwi. “Unfortunately”, says Hans, “the forest also supports a wide variety of pests which provide a constant challenge for the passionate volunteers who give up their time to help with trapping, clearing the bush, and laying bait lines.”
The Trust holds a special place in the hearts of Bay of Plenty locals who consider it to be a national treasure. It has always been able to attract plenty of enthusiastic volunteers who love to get out in the bush and reconnect with nature. “We’ve never had a problem with recruitment,” says Hans, “we have a comprehensive website which attracts people to us initially and many people come to us through ‘word-of-mouth’ recommendation. Volunteer management has always been more of a challenge.”
“How to best integrate people into your organisation is something a lot of groups struggle with.”
VolBop have also helped create a comprehensive Volunteer Handbook which includes lots of useful information including sections on health and safety and the Trust’s values. “We always had the will and the idea to do it” says Hans. “but VolBop really helped us know how to do it and how to move it forward. It’s been a huge benefit of working with them.” They have also helped to create more formal job descriptions, a volunteer newsletter, and to improve overall volunteer communication.
Bryan Everitt, a volunteer who has been involved for about 6 months along with his wife Dawn, says “We wanted to get more involved with the local community after our kids left home for work and Uni and this was the perfect opportunity for us. We regularly come to the work-days and we love getting out into the bush and off the beaten track.”
“The best thing about the work is seeing things you wouldn’t normally see in the forest. We gain lots of new knowledge about the natural environment, forest management, baiting and tracking. We learn so much informally just by being there and talking with others” says Bryan.
“It’s the ability to contribute to our community and learn at the same time that we really enjoy – it’s a win-win” says Bryan. “We’ve met lots of interesting and knowledgeable people and we hope to get more involved in the future”.
Another local volunteer from Oropi, Rebecca Rickard, is soon to be a year 13 student at Tauranga Girls College and has worked with the Trust once a month since May. “I’ve always known about the Trust”, says Rebecca. “I learnt a lot about giving back from being part of Outward Bound and I decided a great way to give back to my local community was through the Trust. VolBop helped by putting me in touch with Hans at the Trust after I expressed an interest in community work.”
VolBop have also assisted in training existing experienced volunteers on how to teach new members of the team. Hans says “It was sometimes a challenge when new volunteers tried to integrate into existing teams. It’s really helped to give those already involved some training on how to make the process smoother.” Rebecca agrees. “I have found that volunteers who have been involved for a while are great at teaching and helping new people out,” she says. “There is always an experienced person leading a group on the work-days and everyone is easy to talk to.”
“We hope the relationship between VolBop and the Otanewainuku Trust will continue to grow,” says Theo Ursum, General Manager, VolBop. “They are a wonderful organisation and we’re delighted that we’ve been able to help with some of the processes and procedures. These will create strong foundations for their volunteer management moving forward.”