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 (VBOP) 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.”
VBOP helped with the development of volunteer introduction days which allow interested people to come along and learn more before signing up. This helps to provide essential information about what is involved up-front and to build stronger relationships in the long run. Volunteers are clearer about their roles and how they fit within the organisation before they move forward. “It’s provided realistic information for potential volunteers” says Hans. “People sign up on a dream – which is great – but this really allows them to see what’s involved in advance so they are sure they want be part of the team”.
VBOP 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 VBOP 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.”
He says the introduction days were very helpful. “We were part of one of the first introduction days that were held. It was great to hear all about the background of the Trust and get a full overview of what they do. We also felt it gave us a useful insight into what the opportunities were and what the ‘specialists’ in the team do”. Bryan also thinks it makes a connection with volunteers that helps to build relationships. “It pulled all the information together in one place and made it really personal” says Bryan.
“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. VBOP helped by putting me in touch with Hans at the Trust after I expressed an interest in community work.”
VBOP 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 VBOP and the Otanewainuku Trust will continue to grow” says Theo Ursum, General Manager, VBOP. “They are 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.”
Iris Beemster, Service Coordinator at VBOP says “This project really demonstrates the importance of good volunteer engagement. The volunteers are passionate about the work they do and they wanted more and better communication from the trust. Engaging with registered volunteers on a regular basis made a huge difference in a short space of time. People like to know what is going on, what is needed and what difference they are making. By improving communications, volunteers are better engaged in how they as individuals help achieve the bigger picture of the mission and goals of the trust”.
THE CLOTHING PROJECT
The Clothing Project, based in Edgecumbe, came into being in February 2013. Amy Revell, the founder and one of the coordinators of The Clothing Project, started it from her garage, sourcing clothes for little children for families who were so poor that they often had to choose between food and necessary clothing for the kids. Amy was soon joined by her schoolmate Kylie Carpenter who is also one of the coordinators of The Project, who also ached to do something positive, right at the grassroots level.
The Clothing Project have managed substantial work already, covering most of the Eastern Bay of Plenty, including reaching out to people even on the occasion of the devastating floods in April 2017, which left the town of Edgecumbe wrecked. In collaboration with Volunteering Bay of Plenty (VolBop) that coordinated with the NAVA (Ngati Awa Volunteer Army), they worked in impossible circumstances to the best of their capacity to help to those affected by the floods. Both Amy and Kylie acknowledged the support they received from VolBop where they liaised with the local authorities bringing great support to Amy and Kylie in a situation where everything was up in the air.
If they did not have a rocking sense of humour, and if they were not looking like school girls on a picnic, what they have managed to accomplish would look more like the work of highly experienced boardroom helming, iron willed business women in power suits. Kylie and Amy are anything but that. The atmosphere is like a family gathering where people just drop in to chill out with each other while lending a hand with whatever is going on there. Both are mothers, and both have lives full of responsibilities that could overwhelm a mortal being. But they are a powerhouse of enthusiasm with a hefty dose of positivity. Looking at the mad amount of work surrounding them, their achievement is incredible in terms of outreach and expansion.
Having achieved the Runner-Up position in the Health and Wellbeing category of the 2017, Trustpower Community Awards, the team is excited about more upcoming events for 2018.
Submitted by Bushra Ansari, journalist at Volunteering Bay of Plenty
Otanewainuku’s new volunteer army
A new volunteer army will help buoy one of the Western Bay’s most precious environments.
A partnership between Volunteering Bay of Plenty and Western Bay of Plenty District Council will provide a volunteer force to strengthen the Otanewainuku Kiwi Trust.
Click here to read the full article in the Bay of Plenty Times.
Researching family history helps man back into work
Brian Godfrey is using his passion for genealogy to help get him back into the workplace.
Mr Godfrey is one of three genealogy volunteers at Tauranga City Library and, after an accident in October 2016 left him in pain and unable to work, he decided to use his 30-year passion for genealogy to help him get back in to the workplace.
Click here to read the full article in the Bay of Plenty Times.