5 Awesome Jobs the Pūkaha Volunteers Love


by Helen Cordery

It should come as no surprise that Pūkaha takes its volunteers very, very seriously. They are the butter to our bread and the mauri of all the conservation work we do here. In a nutshell, we couldn’t achieve the things we do here without our dedicated volunteers.

In honour of National Volunteer Week (16-22 June), we thought we’d share with you the awesome jobs that Pūkaha volunteers love so much. We have volunteers (we call them ‘volleys’) who are here as interns from university, long-termers (some have been here for over 10 years), local families and even high school students bulking up their CVs. And it could be you! We are always on the lookout for more kaitiaki to join the Pūkaha whanau so have a read of what our volunteers get up to!

1) Working for the stars of our social media pages

We’ve all heard of Manukura the white kiwi and Kahurangi the kōkako, but some of our volunteers can say they’ve actually got to see these birds up close! While you won’t be able to hold them, just knowing that the work you are doing is directly contributing to their livelihood is enough to give you warm fuzzies. It’s not just these ladies who are the stars, though.  According to Katie, who’s been volunteering at Pūkaha for five months, the kākā are definitely a highlight. Some of our volunteers help to prepare and dish out the bird feed, tidy out the aviaries or even help out if we have new arrivals coming.

2) Creating Te Wāhi Wētā

In April, Pūkaha created a new space called Te Wāhi Wētā. It wasn’t easy though … it took lots of hard work from the entire Pūkaha team. We all chipped in to tidy up this pretty wild and tangled corner and the end result is the stunning area you can see today over by the tuna/longfin eels. Although it took some effort, seeing it completed was a huge reward and it was fun to work outside directly in nature, getting our hands dirty. Everyone also attended the big launch (for VIPs only!) where many of us got to meet the Auckland Burners, who created the Giant Wētā sculpture, followed by a night walk through the forest with researcher, Joe Potangaroa.

3)  Foraging in the forest (and learning that it’s a playground)

One of the really common (and totally awesome) jobs that Pūkaha volunteers love has to be the chance to go out exploring in the Reserve. We often go way off the beaten path in search of materials to use in the aviaries, and one of the most eye-opening things about this is the realization that the forest is actually one giant playground for our wildlife. Kiwi love rotting logs – the oldest ones you can find – which the volunteers scoop up to put in either Kiwi Creche or with Manukura the white kiwi herself. They love poking around with their long beak (technically the shortest beak in the world because of where the nostrils are placed) looking for tasty insects! “It is strangely satisfying to find one of these logs” says Katie.

4) Learning from the experts

It isn’t a secret that the Pūkaha team is held in pretty high regard across New Zealand, and the volunteers get to work directly with them and soak up all that knowledge. Jess Flamy, who is the Head Ranger, has more than 15 years of international experience working with birds and has an uncanny success rate hatching and raising kiwi here. Mireille Hicks works on the South End section and is part of the reason why our tūturuatu (shore plover) and whio (blue duck) are doing better than ever before. All of our team are amazing, from the ecologists and zoologists outside to the anthropologists and photographers we have inside. The volunteers love getting to pick their brains and hear their stories and there are plenty of opportunities to do so.

5) Going on the front line

You may have noticed recently that our Facebook page has been buzzing with footage of a wild kōkako filmed right near to the Visitor Centre. This is pretty exciting news because although we’ve had wild kōkako for a while, we don’t normally see them so close to people. This is a sure sign that our pest control measures are working thanks to the expertise of BackBlocks Environmental Management Ltd. We take the control of introduced predators very seriously (see here) using a mix of old-world skills and modern methods and it is great to see that we are sparking a real difference in Aotearoa New Zealand.

And the volunteers get to be a part of that story. Maintaining trap lines is definitely one of the awesome jobs the Pūkaha volunteers love.

What do you think?

Being a volunteer isn’t for everyone, which is why our volunteer coordinator Kerri makes sure she matches the right person for each task. And this list isn’t even slightly comprehensive – we’ve missed out all the other possible perks like eel feeding,  taking part in bird counts …

We accept everyone from our rangatahi (youth), families with children through to international visitors and locals looking to volunteer long-term. We are fully flexible, working around what you want to do. If you think you’d like to join us on our conservation mission and help make our wildlife thrive again, send us an email to volunteer@pukaha.org.nz.

For a closer look at interning at Pūkaha, meet our newest volunteer Eve here.