New Zealand is perhaps one of the countries in the world where it’s the easiest to volunteer for environmental organizations. Ranging from day outs planting native trees to multiple month full time ranger positions, anyone interested in environmental volunteering in New Zealand should be able to find what they are looking for. While there are plenty of long term positions that require a lot of commitment, most volunteer work is done in a leisurely manner a few hours at a time at an ongoing basis. Many volunteer groups work in such a way that they for example meet up for 3 hours of planting native trees and weeding every other Friday. It’s a common social activity for locals and a way to learn more about this interesting part of kiwi culture. This post will be a bit about what kind of volunteering positions you normally can expect to find, how to get the position and why it’s a win-win for everyone and you should give it a go. It ends with a link list to various organizations etc that are looking for volunteers. The list is by no means complete but unless you are looking for something very specific, it will offer more than enough to choose from and several ideas about how to continue the search on your own, in case you did not find what you were looking for.
Finally there are many job positions available for those who want to work with environmental conservation and so forth. You can find some links under a separate section in the list at the bottom. Be aware that these jobs are often unavailable to people who are not New Zealand residents.
If you miss something in this post, let me know and I’ll update it!
Requirements are different for different positions. Most positions have very few requirements but the more long term and popular one’s with limited capacity can often be tricky. They often take into consideration level of fitness (with volunteer ranger positions often requiring a high level of fitness), education (favoring those who are educated in or study relevant topics), employment history (past volunteering or work for environmental organizations are often a bonus), skills (for example: do you know how to use monitoring equipment?) and future plans (it’s sometimes a bonus to see the volunteering more as a stepping stone than a once in a lifetime interesting experience). So if you want to volunteer as a wildlife ranger, be prepared for some rough competition and possibly having to either volunteer a few months or not at all. If you want something more short term and less demanding, luckily a lot less is demanded in terms of commitment and previous experience. Sometimes you don’t even need to apply, but can just show up. If you anyway, no matter what wants to try for one of the more demanding positions and for example stay a month in the NZ wilderness monitoring wild kiwi, New Zealand’s department of conservation (DOC) has several online courses that you can take to better your odds . Don’t be intimidated by the fact that it’s more difficult to get a volunteer position as a ranger, but be aware that you have to put some effort if you want to get it. Even if it’s still lots of time until you want to start volunteering, start looking for positions already now. Many of the applications close months before the actual volunteering starts, so if you want to make sure to get a position it’s best to start early. Also try to find a local organization back home to volunteer with once in a while. By getting some experience and learning more, you will better your odds of being accepted. Put an effort into writing your CV. Think of previous experiences and how they could be helpful for you. Even if it’s not related to actual biological conservation, it could for example be helpful to have worked in a pet shop, as some common volunteering tasks are not at all very different from such work, only that instead of taking care of guinea pigs you’ll be taking care of endangered wildlife.
Many volunteering positions in New Zealand require you to hold a working permit or resident status, but a lot of the positions are available also for those on a regular tourist visa. There is an easy way to decide if a position is open or not. Do you get anything in exchange for your work? Examples of things given in exchange for work could be food, transportation or accommodation. If you don’t, you are legally allowed to do the job, even if you are only on a tourist visa. For positions that offer benefits, you will need either a working visa of some sorts or a resident status.
Generally speaking it’s for free to volunteer. That means that it won’t cost you anything to do the actual work. But as most long term positions do not provide much more than accommodation and most short term positions offer nothing at all, you will have to put some money aside for such things as food, transportation and equipment. Often such things as transportation can be coordinated, so that you – if you don’t have your own transportation – can go with others. If you don’t have equipment, then don’t worry. Unless you are going to do something very demanding, you most likely don’t even need it. But if there is something that you do need but don’t want to buy new, for example a good pair of boots, often you can find them cheap in one of the many second hand shops that are scattered across the country.
If you want to spend a bit more you could do some “voluntourism”. By paying a organization some money, they will arrange your volunteering experience. I don’t know almost anything about these organizations and how they are in New Zealand, but from what little I’ve seen there seems to be some good value options, where food, transportation and accommodation is included, without it costing ridiculous amounts of money as it sometimes does. Perhaps some of them will lend you the equipment you need.
Volunteer’s tasks usually includes one or several of the following: weeding, planting native trees, pest control, trapping pests, monitor wildlife, nurse native plants, nurse endangered wildlife mark and maintain tracks, guide visitors, clean facilities, gather seeds. Some tasks require some skills. For example managing kiwi chicks. Others are more simple. For example to survey a fenced in nature reserve to make sure that the fence has not been damaged. Many provide ample opportunities of learning a job. Much of the conservation work revolves around minimizing the harmful effects of invasive species. Some of it requires killing introduced predators by placing traps in the nature.
Some volunteering tasks can be done online or in other ways, without having to leave the computer.
You can find volunteering work almost anywhere in New Zealand. If you want to volunteer in a certain city or for a certain nature reserve, it’s often enough to visit their official website to apply. The link list below gives you a very wide range of possible volunteering positions, but in case you don’t find what you are looking for, do some searches of your own and probably you will find something. If you manage to find a organization or project that you want to volunteer for but they don’t have any application form or information online, try to just send them an email and ask. Environmental volunteering is very widespread throughout New Zealand and quite likely many will be open for suggestions, even if at first glance it does not look like it.
There are many benefits to volunteering. Some of them are for you, other for the organizations you volunteer for, and most of them – of course – for the nature that you help preserve.
You will, depending on what you do, learn new skills, experience New Zealand’s unique nature from close up, meet a lot of interesting people and – if you want that – get valuable experience for future employment in conservation. As conservation work globally is underfunded and very competitive (with lots of people wanting to do it for a living, but few positions available), conservation experience is often a stepping stone required for a paid job, even for those with education.
Most conservation organizations in New Zealand to some extent depend on volunteers. They would not be able to do their work without volunteers. Many of the even relatively small organizations receive hundreds of thousands of hours of volunteer work per year. That’s millions of New Zealand dollars per year that they don’t have to spend. For a organization that does not actually strive to make money but to preserve endangered species and ecosystems, it would not be possible to pay for all this labor. Had it not been for volunteers, many endangered species’ of New Zealand would be extinct.
Finally, if you have any questions or things to add, let me know and I will update the post! Hopefully it will make it easier for people to find what they are looking for.
DOC – the department of conservation
DOC is short for Department of Conservation and is the government body responsible for conservation work throughout New Zealand. Not only is their website great for those who want to volunteer, but they also have free online courses in such things as the use of monitoring equipment and the nature of New Zealand. It’s with DOC you will find many of the most interesting positions, for example as a kiwi tracking ranger in the remote wildernes, but they list all kinds of positions, including office work. Be aware that many positions have lots of applicants and that you will have to convince them about why to choose you.
Many cities have their own volunteering websites. Here are a few examples. If you want to find volunteering opportunities for e.g. Hamilton, just visit their website and see if you can find volunteering opportunities there. Most volunteering activities offered in the links below are not actually inside the cities, but close by and within easy reach. Often such things as transportation can be arranged with other volunteers, if you lack your own means of transport.
These links lead to portals for different organizations. Various organizations offer different positions in different places. Most of the links lead to relatively similar volunteering opportunities, so only if you are after something very specific will you ever need to look through all of them.
Around the top of the north Island some brave volunteers are waging a war against the pine trees. Not the typical conservation volunteers (who are sometimes called “treehuggers”), these people kill trees by the hundreds. The reason is that pines, as an introduced species in New Zealand, are harming the New Zealand environment. Local plants, mushrooms, wildlife etc, is of course adapted to local trees, with which they have evolved together. The amount of species found in pine forests are vastly lower than the amount of species found in native forests. You’ll notice it if you compare the sounds in a pine forest compared to a native forest: while you’ll hear plenty of birds in the latter, the former is eerily quiet. So if you are up in the area around Marlborough and want to do a different kind of treehugger activity, try this out!
Cleaning beaches, rivers and all kinds of places around New Zealand. You can even organize your own events and have interested people showing up helping out. So if you have no plans for a day off, why not check if there are any cleanup events going on nearby! Shared transportation can be arranged if you lack your own.
Events, paperwork, fundraising, office, online
Allthough most work takes place outdoors, some stuff require regular office or remote computer workers. If you want to help out with things such as fundraising, perhaps you will find something in the links below!
WWF also has some opportunities. On their website it says: “Unfortunately we don’t have an intern programme. But we do occasionally need casual volunteers to do administrative work at our office in Wellington. Interested? Email your CV to our office.” You may contact them on email@example.com
Sanctuaries are very important in NZ conservation work. Many endangered New Zealand animals such as kiwis are kept only until they are big enough to survive by themselves in nature. Most wild kiwi chicks gets eaten by predators introduced from other parts of the world. By helping out at these centers you can both experience many rare species from up close and help them survive in the wild. Most of the animals you will work with will at some point be released into the wild.
Similar jobs to sanctuaries, but with more international wildlife. NZ zoos are acclaimed for their conservation work and you will be able to help out with preserving endangered species etc. New Zealand zoos are well known for their focus on conservation work and could be a great way to learn more.
These are a few websites for those who do not mind paying a bit to volunteer. Often transportation, food and accommodation is included and the overall price will not be much higher than if you would pay for everything yourself. I have not included any of the more expensive volunteering websites in this list. Some organizations charge up to a 150 New Zealand dollars per day for you to help out with various tasks!
Most of the links here are to advertisement platforms that are not specifically used for conservation jobs. Some of the links below lead to search results for the word “conservation”. If you instead search for things such as “wildlife” different results may appear. Many sites have pretty much the same jobs listed, but if you are very keen to land a real conservation job it could be worth to have a quick look at a few of them. The most useful links are the three first one’s. Sign up for “conservationjobs” newsletter for weekly updates about upcoming positions. Also, many regions and cities etc have their own websites where current vacancies are listed. For example Southland lists positions here. If you want to find jobs in a specific place, try to find their websites.