'Volunteer Wednesday' is a monthly volunteering event run by the Whangarei DOC Office in conjunction with their operations team and community groups throughout the district.
Alison Vesey, who has participated consistently in the Volunteer Wednesday programme since its inception in 2012, and who has volunteered for approximately 300 hours in total, says that it was just by pure chance that she discovered the programme.
"When I retired I was asked to feed my neighbour’s cat while they went on holiday", she says."Tucked under the cat’s food was a leaflet with a list of volunteer groups available in Whangarei. DOC was asking for volunteers on the third Wednesday of each month”.
Already an avid volunteer for conservation with other groups in the Whangarei area, Alison recalls that she went along and enjoyed it immensely.
"We are a group of like-minded people all interested in helping conservation", she says. "Each month we go to different locations to do a variety of jobs. One of the most memorable experiences for me was helping the kiwi ranger collect eggs for Operation Nest Egg."
Alison is also part of the local tramping club, volunteers regularly on Matakohe/Limestone Island (a kiwi creche right in Whangarei), and has travelled extensively around the world. Back here in New Zealand she has done all the Great Walks. Despite all her commitments, Alison still finds the time to join her volunteer ‘whānau’ when it comes time for Volunteer Wednesday.
Alison and Trudy destroying wild ginger
Image: Fiona Watson | DOC
Trudy McKnight joined the programme roughly a year later in 2013 and, like Alison, has been consistently attending since with about 240 volunteer hours clocked up so far. She first came across Volunteer Wednesday when she reduced her working hours to volunteer around Whangarei more. Like Alison, every Volunteer Wednesday is memorable for Trudy.
“We really look forward to the last volunteer day of each year because DOC very generously provides a picnic lunch – a great spread, in a great location – in the bush, at the beach, by the riverside, wherever we happen to be working that day”, says Trudy.
Like Alison, Trudy is an avid tramper and has been on many of the Great Walks and other DOC tracks, frequently staying in DOC huts along the way.
"Where would we be without DOC?" asks Trudy. "Conservation is essential to preserve what we have for future generations”.
Laurence Sullivan, Whangarei Community Ranger, took over the volunteer programme in at the beginning of 2017 and surveyed the volunteers on their experience and recommendations for the progamme.
Some of the feedback Laurence received was that long serving volunteeers would like to be reconnised by DOC. Both Alison and Trudy received a certificate from DOC and a box of chocolates. According to Laurence, “They were so happy - and not expecting it at all."
These two amazing volunteers are truly an asset to not only Whangarei, but to the Department as a whole, as they epitomise what the volunteering programme is all about: Getting passionate conservationists involved in conservation, and providing opportunities for them to utilise their passion, and to help protect the natural world of their communities.