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Source: Department of Conservation

By Maree Limpus, Community Ranger

In a break from their busy routines of looking after patients, 13 medical staff from Thames Hospital recently spent some time caring for nature.

They visited the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre on 21 May for a day of team building, planting over 100 trees and providing the impetus for a new section of the Kahikatea track to be constructed.

Our Hauraki staff were excited when the hospital team enquired about the team building day, as it provided a great opportunity to engage the Healthy Nature Health People initiative.

“This initiative embraces the fact connecting with nature has been shown to improve concentration, emotional functioning as well as buffering against stress, lowering cortisol levels (flight or fight response) and improve the immune system,” Maree says.

“It significantly improves mood, enhances wellbeing and provides greater life satisfaction. With the tough year health sector employees have had this was the perfect opportunity to work together for the benefit of all.”

The day for the hospital team started in the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre where they did some strategic planning in the peaceful surroundings. They then headed out into nature with one of our rangers to consider the diversity and the parallels which can be drawn between well-functioning teams and forests.

While enjoying the short Kahikatea track, there was time for the hospital staff to reflect on the diversity and their personal values – later shared as part of developing camaraderie, an important aspect of effective teamwork and a thriving community. The group also had the opportunity to stop and soak up the sights and song of the tūī swooping through the kahikatea trees and hear about some of the other wildlife interactions occurring in Coromandel’s forests.

Elsewhere in Kauaeranga Valley, Coromandel Forest Park. Photo by Kathrin Marks

The tree planting work made a small but important contribution to the management of the track and the wider valley, and the hospital team’s collective effort means children and other walkers are now diverted onto a new section of track complete with historic artefacts along its edge – avoiding having to use a stretch of road.

Heritage and visitors ranger Yvette Yule, who led the hospital staff in their planting and mulching activity, says she was impressed by how fast and effectively they worked.

“I was blown away by how much work they got through in such a short period of time and it was great working with such interested and enthusiastic people,” Yvette says.

Elsewhere in Kauaeranga Valley, Coromandel Forest Park. Photo by Kathrin Marks

The feedback from the hospital staff at the end of the day was very positive with people appreciating their time in the peaceful and rejuvenating environment and Te Papa Atawhai staff were buzzing with what can be achieved for all when people work together in partnership.

“Everyone loved the day spent in the valley,” says Thames Hospital’s Janine Lee.

“The surroundings were conducive to our agenda, and the beauty and privacy provided the perfect backdrop to our day. We are still buzzing about the planting we accomplished and we look forward to returning to see the results. We’re very grateful to DOC for the use of their facilities and to Maree for her input, and for our department we now have a clear picture of how to improve our service.”

National Volunteer Week 2021

National Volunteer Week runs from the 20 – 26 June 2021. It’s a chance to celebrate and thank all the volunteers and community groups who take action for conservation. We’ll be sharing stories throughout the week about the amazing work of those volunteers who generously give to ensure Papatūānuku thrives.