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Source: Department of Conservation

It’s Te Wiki Tūao ā-Motu, National Volunteer Week, and for Volunteer Facilitator Daniel Jephson, the theme Te Hua o te Mahi Tahi – the benefit of working together – is at the core of everything he does. The DOC volunteering team want to shine a light on some of Daniel’s awesome mahi.

By Jill Hetherington, DOC Volunteering Advisor

Daniel’s role as Volunteer Facilitator sees him jointly employed between the Dunedin City Council and DOC Coastal Otago, where he works with both community organisations and staff to achieve conservation outcomes through volunteering.

Image: Daniel Jephson, supplied

Daniel is new to the role, but his predecessor was the first to pave the way in this collaborative approach and earning the nickname of ‘Matchmaker’.

When it comes to volunteering, we work with various community organisations and councils, and are always on the hunt for willing volunteers to help with projects.

Image: Unicol volunteers and community volunteer Chris getting ready to do some painting during a University College trip to Quarantine Island during O-week 

Many hands are helpful when you have hundreds of trees to plant, hectares of gorse to clear or a sealion needing protection from humans!

Daniel is based in Dunedin and is in the position of helping staff and community organisations shape up their projects to create awesome experiences and figure out who might be interested in volunteering. He has identified different audiences (potential volunteers) around Dunedin through understanding their needs, interests, and psychographics, he uses this information to promote a project to the most suitable audience.

Across Coastal Otago, 269 volunteers contributed their energy, enthusiasm and skills to programmes, in particular War on Weeds, delivered by community organisations, council and us last year.

I asked him for his thoughts on facilitating this volunteer effort, and he said, “volunteers represent the community taking care of the community, and I believe that volunteering engagement is an important indicator of societal wellbeing.

“I am in the privileged and unique position of linking people to volunteering opportunities across both Council Reserves and Public Conservation Land.”

But wait, this is the best bit:

Daniel said, “I get huge satisfaction from empowering individuals and groups to enhance and restore their environment and recreation spaces. Like community groups committing to multi-year weeding, planting and predator control programmes, out of town university students engaging with wildlife and spaces they have never seen or experienced, and school kids learning skills such as propagation and planting.”

And volunteer feedback is overwhelmingly positive.

We’ve kept these anonymous, but some feedback we’ve received is:

“As days in the “field’ go today would have to be one of those ‘special’ ones. Out of this world – it’s everything we could expect and more for this time of the year! And it’s the middle of winter!

Just magic; Birds singing; wind rustling; so calm; noise of machines far away; aeroplanes and helicopters buzzing; and cattle lowing!”

Image: Unicol volunteers working with community members Jim and Kristen to release trees during a University College trip to Quarantine Island during O-week 

The Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua community, a volunteer group seeking to regenerate the native biodiversity on this small island in the Otago Harbour, have positive feedback too.

Group member Kristen said: “the community has been able to utilise the Volunteer Facilitator to help shape our weeding and planting days and promote events through their networks, they focused on tertiary students who are looking for a one-off activity in an interesting location.”

So a huge shoutout to Daniel, as well as the many volunteer groups he works with.

Across New Zealand hundreds of volunteers contribute their energy, enthusiasm and skills to conservation and recreation projects, many of which are led entirely by small groups of volunteers.

Image: Unicol volunteers and community volunteers Debbie and Russell

We’re tremendously grateful to the hundreds of community volunteer organisations who contribute to conserving our iconic, endemic and endangered species and the outdoors lifestyle Kiwis know and love.

This Volunteer Week we want to say a huge thank you to every single person who gives their time, voluntarily, to conservation.

Through working together, we are all able to succeed, Te Hua o te Mahi Tahi.


Interested in conservation volunteering? Check out the volunteer section on our website.

MIL OSI