Volunteering unearths hidden gems

Kat Joseph may be in New Zealand on a working holiday but it’s through her conservation volunteering that she’s discovered many of Wellington’s special spots

Kat Joseph planting trees

Initially, the prop maker and set dresser/buyer worked on the new TV series Mr Corman in Wellington but being she can only work for 12 months out of the 24 she’s here, she was keen to explore other opportunities.

After sifting through options via Volunteer Wellington the English woman from West Sussex came across one that resonated with her – Conservation Volunteers New Zealand.

“I wanted something that keeps me busy, that gets me outside in the fresh air, something that would get me up in the morning, and the flexibility of Conservation Volunteers appealed.”

“You can sign up for as much or as little as you want, you can choose a different day each week or you can do extra days – it doesn’t feel like too much of a commitment which is really nice.”

The Wellington arm of CVNZ takes its cohort of volunteers 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.

It feels pretty good to do something to help the environment, and it’s a good way to see Wellington - volunteering takes you to all the lovely, beautiful spots you wouldn’t necessarily think of or look up.

Kat Joseph

For Kat, the fact that she doesn’t drive has been no obstacle to her volunteering – the Conservation Volunteers’ vans pick up and drop off volunteers at a central Wellington meeting point and transports them to that day’s location.

Volunteers must wear appropriate clothing and footwear, and bring their own food, but the organisation will provide all equipment, including gloves, spades, forks and shears, and even tea and coffee.

“It’s really refreshing and wholesome, it’s honestly always the highlight of my week.”

Princess Bay

Kat mostly volunteers her time on weekdays and to date has enjoyed undertaking projects all over the Wellington region, from Princess Bay to Mt Victoria and as far away as Titahi Bay.

“It feels pretty good to do something to help the environment, and it’s a good way to see Wellington - volunteering takes you to all the lovely, beautiful spots you wouldn’t necessarily think of or look up.

“I’ve already been to loads of new, cute little forests, reserves, parks and beaches I wouldn’t have even thought about going to in the time I’ve been involved.”

Kat gives the example of dune restoration work at Princess Bay.

“We did a lot of dune work and weeding on that particular day, it was so beautiful I jumped into the ocean when we’d finished, it’s such a lovely spot there.”

The work Kat has done involves everything from dune restoration, weeding of existing plants and planting native trees - more than 200 so far - through to germinating seeds and repotting seedlings.

“One of my favourite things is going to the nurseries where they keep all the tiny seedlings of all the native trees we plant, it’s the cutest thing you’ve ever seen!”

Along the way Kat has learned how to germinate seeds, to grow natives from cuttings and how to nurture them as they grow.

“Coming over here I didn’t really know a lot about native trees, but I’ve learnt just how important flora and fauna is through our knowledgeable team leaders.

“I can look at a tree and talk of its properties now and I’ve learned so much about the invasive species that take over I can recognise them on hikes and pull them out along the way!”

Whether for leisure or in a volunteering capacity, Kat has learned to appreciate just how important restoration is for Wellington and the positive effects it’s having on the environment.

“I’m told the amount of bird and wildlife that has returned is incredible, and I’ve seen it myself – there was a day we were planting up on Mt Vic[toria] and a kākā was sitting on a branch nearby watching us.

I can look at a tree and talk of its properties now and I’ve learned so much about the invasive species that take over I can recognise them on hikes and pull them out along the way!

Kat Joseph

“It was one of those ‘ah ha, that’s why we’re doing this’ kind of moments, which was really cool.”

Kat is grateful for the opportunity to work among nature here in Wellington and she encourages others to do the same.

“Volunteering is for all walks of life and all ages and it’s not a huge time commitment – if you’re a child you can learn about the environment, trees and how to preserve for the future, if you’re older it gets you out and about and socialising, it’s good for families…

“I’m 29 and I know I would have enjoyed it at the age of 10, 15, and I know I will continue to love it for a long time yet.”

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

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