If you want to explore the beautiful landscape home to people who affectionately call themselves “Kiwis,” the good news is you can find ways to give back to the islands as you make yourself at home. From conservation efforts to working with non-governmental organizations, volunteer organizations send people to do a variety of work in New Zealand. Here are some things to know as you plan your trip, and the programs that will connect you with meaningful work.
What to Know Before You Volunteer in New Zealand
New Zealand is an incredibly bio-diverse country. From lizards and birds to fish and frogs, there are so many New Zealand animals unique to the island country. Sadly, many of the species that make NZ so vibrant are starting to become vulnerable or go extinct altogether. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, as much as 85-90 percent of the wetlands in New Zealand have been degraded through initiatives like land development and irrigation. As species are displaced, they become threatened with extinction and human intervention is often required to save them.
Most volunteer activities in New Zealand are aimed at helping clean up the habitats of the country’s creatures and monitor their migrations and population numbers. During your time volunteering in New Zealand, you will learn about how to help the environment and further efforts to protect some of the most important species currently in decline.
New Zealand is in the Southern Hemisphere, so the seasons are reversed to those in North America and Europe — winter takes place from June to August and summer happens from December to February. The climate there is mostly moderate, though parts of the North Island have some subterranean conditions. You can generally expect warmer temperatures in the north and cooler temperatures in the south. While New Zealand is an English speaking country, you may still find a phrasebook helpful because the vernacular is quite different from other countries.
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The volunteer opportunities in New Zealand offered by IVHQ are aimed at making New Zealand a better, cleaner place to live. You can choose between two volunteer abroad New Zealand programs: the NGO Support experience and Coast and Waterway Conservation project. In the NGO Support program, you can expect to work on everything from organizing community beach clean-ups and tree plantings to working on education campaigns and maintaining local gardens. Your tasks will be matched to your skillset.
In the conservation program, volunteers conduct everything from weeding, collecting seeds, removing invasive species and organic small-scale farming, to mulching, reforestation and monitoring a variety of native species. Both programs take place in the greater Auckland area and offer housing for volunteers.
If you decide to volunteer in New Zealand with Love Volunteers, you can choose between three conservation projects. The program in Auckland facilitates volunteering at some of the city’s most beloved parks and reserves. As you volunteer in New Zealand, you’ll help keep the city looking beautiful and restore parks for the public. In Punakaiki, the volunteering is primarily centered on creating a nature reserve out of a former mining region and restoring the native forest. You may also be assigned to help preserve the blue penguin and Westland petrel. The third program is in Wellington, where volunteers often spend time at wildlife sanctuaries, reintroduce animals into their natural habitat, and help clean up natural reserves. Volunteer housing is available for all three programs.
If you volunteer in New Zealand with Fronteering, you will help in conservation and protection efforts for kiwi birds and other endangered species at the Pupu Rangi Nature Sanctuary. Over the course of your Kiwi Conservation volunteer program, you will learn how to live a more sustainable and eco-friendly lifestyle and the latest techniques in conservation. In addition to your time at the sanctuary, you will also visit places like the Kai Iwi Lakes and Tokatoka Peak. Volunteers may stay in the provided dormitory housing, and program durations range from two to eight weeks. You should prepare to arrive ready to get dirty in nature and work six days a week.
The Frontier programs for volunteering in New Zealand are also about cleaning up the natural landscape. There are two separate programs that allow you to dive into ocean clean-up and help protect the unique native species of NZ. During the New Zealand Ethical Conservation project, you will be placed throughout the country with projects aimed at protecting the bio-diverse ecosystems. Your work may include constructing fencing or walking trails, monitoring vital environments, and restoring habitats.
The Auckland Ethical Conservation program is stationed in around the largest city in the country. As a volunteer in New Zealand, your work will include tasks like re-vegetation efforts, weed, and pest removal, cleaning bush areas and waterways, and maintaining wildlife corridors to ensure the safe passage of species between healthy ecosystems.
Frontier also has four adventure programs while you volunteer in New Zealand. After your volunteering commitments conclude, you can set about tackling an adventure junkie tour or a tour of the country’s most famed bays and coastal gems.
Additional Considerations Before Volunteering in New Zealand
If you’re planning on visiting the Land of the Hobbits, you should know more than just the available volunteer programs for your experience. How long will you need to plan ahead to obtain your visa (if one is needed)? How much should you budget for travel? How long will you be gone? Will you get to stay with friends, or in a hostel or hotel, or is housing provided by the volunteer organization? How flexible will the program be?
Don’t get us wrong – you should definitely start by surveying your options, but don’t stop there. Many programs have a community of past volunteers. Talk to them! Find out what they liked and what didn’t work for them. Just know what to plan for before you go, and you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable, life-changing experience.
You can learn a lot about the culture of New Zealand as you help protect the islands’ natural resources. Whether you work on conservation programs or for an NGO, you will return to your life renewed and enlightened.
Lara V. · Guest Writer
Lara V. is a guest writer for Volunteer Forever.