Father and son connect through nature

Attending a conservation volunteer barbecue with his father Richard has prompted Chester Bodman to follow in his footsteps

Richard and Chester Bodman volunteering

The Scots College year 13 student has spent the last 18 months regularly volunteering for Conservation Volunteers New Zealand’s (CVNZ) Wellington arm.

CVNZ takes its local cohort of volunteers by van to beaches, parks, reserves and forest areas all over the Wellington region on weekdays and weekends to plant native trees, eradicate weeds and restore dunes. All volunteers require is appropriate clothing, footwear and food.

Chester’s dad Richard began volunteering for Conservation Volunteers almost four years ago now, thanks to an initial prod from his wife.

“I’m a bit of a walker, I like long walks all around Wellington and through the bush and I’ve always been interested in learning more about the environment, so my wife put me onto this and it’s gone from there.”

Richard and Chester Bodman

While Chester and Richard both volunteer for the same organisation, they don’t usually help out on the same days.

Richard is a company director who no longer works fulltime, which means he can volunteer his time on weekdays around his commitments.

Chester volunteers mostly during school holidays.

“We are at home together, so we both see this is something we can enjoy on our own and come back at the end of the day and have conversations about it,” explains Richard.

The pair have even put their learnings and new-found knowledge into regenerating a strip of bush near their Wadestown home.

“With help from our neighbours we’ve taken out a lot of exotic plants and weeds and replanted with seedlings from seeds we collected and propagated,” says Richard.

Through Conservation Volunteers, both Richard and Chester have had a hand in dune restoration all around the south coast, planting native dune grasses, as well as planting and weeding in areas like Mt Victoria.

“One week you might clear an invasive weed and plant up native grasses and three weeks later you’ll go back to the same spot and you’ll see the difference, it’s very rewarding,” says Richard.

“It’s also quite social, you work alongside people you see volunteer regularly and you get to know them – I still keep in contact with a traveller from Chile I met a while back.”

Despite growing up in the capital, Chester enjoys exploring new pockets of Wellington on his volunteer days.

“There’s one cool nursery where all the seedlings we plant are grown in Porirua, and another one near the tip in Owhiro Bay, both of which you’d never know were there otherwise.”

Chester is no stranger to the world of volunteering – at school he’s been part of a Scots College service project that has raised funds for Wellington South non-profit Bellyful, which nourishes and connects communities by cooking and delivering free meals to whānau with babies or young children, who need support.

If you want to give back, do something you may not have done before, and you may find that you really enjoy it like I have.

Chester Bodman

“For any young person, a community-related interest and giving back to the community is important,” he says.

“I help out with Conservation Volunteers whenever I can, I really like the work we do – climate change will be a big problem for a long time so helping out in the environment is a good way to help.

“I’m usually the youngest by a long way, but it’s been great to meet people from all walks of life, married couples, students, employees, business owners…”

Chester’s advice to other young people is to try something new.

“If you want to give back, do something you may not have done before, and you may find that you really enjoy it like I have.”

As for his Dad Richard: “Get involved, even if it’s for a couple of hours every now and again, because it’s important to restore, protect and care for our environment”.

“I helped to plant some white pines (Kahikatea) at Baring Head a couple of years ago, they’re going to be many metres tall long after I’ve gone, and around Wellington there’ll be some huge trees that were planted by volunteers that will be there for other generations to enjoy in future.”

Get involved

Learn how to get involved with conservation volunteering events in the Wellington region

Get involved