FMC president Jan Finlayson says National Volunteer Week – celebrated this week – is an opportunity to recognise those who generously give their time to ensure the effective functioning of the country’s outdoor recreation organisations as well as the contribution often made to the wider community.
“There are hundreds of outdoor clubs and groups across New Zealand catering to a very diverse range of pursuits and activities, representing thousands of members.
Volunteers keep these organisations running. From the club committee members, through to the trip leaders, fundraisers and submission writers who look after Aotearoa’s wild places and recreational infrastructure, collectively they contribute thousands of hours of their own time each year.”
Finlayson says it is important to recognise volunteers given much of their work and contribution often goes unheralded by the general public.
“It’s fitting that this year’s theme for National Volunteer Week is ‘Whiria te tangata – Weaving the people together’; volunteers are certainly the fabric of the outdoor community which has a rich history of volunteers with the NZ Alpine Club dating back to 1891 and the Tararua Tramping Club celebrating its centenary at the end of the month. The drive of volunteers has kept many clubs, and the spirit of adventure in backcountry New Zealand, alive.”
The Backcountry Trust (BCT) is another shining example of volunteer endeavour.
BCT, in partnership with the Department of Conservation, funds and supports volunteers to maintain huts and build tracks for outdoor enthusiasts including trampers, deerstalkers and mountain bikers.
BCT manager Rob Brown says the recently completed 2018-19 season is typical of the massive volunteer effort that goes in every year.
“Last season we completed work on 28 backcountry huts throughout New Zealand, ranging from full rebuilds to major maintenance. Over 100 volunteers throughout the country put in anything between 250 and 500-plus hours on each of these hut projects.”
With sights set even higher for 2019-20, Brown says BCT could easily do with more volunteers.
“We’re looking at completing work on 35 huts next season and then there’s major track work too. It’s always appreciated having new groups of volunteers coming through. “
Brown says preserving New Zealand’s rich history of remote huts and tracks couldn’t be achieved without
“the boundless energy of Aotearoa’s backcountry volunteers. It is great for volunteers wanting to give back to the outdoors in this way to the local places they love, that there’s a vehicle and funding mechanism to make this possible.”