Celebrating Our Volunteers

20 June 2011

They fight fires on Wellington hillsides. They clean up streams and build walking tracks. They deliver library books to people who are housebound.

A volunteer firefighter shows a young recruit how it's done

A volunteer firefighter shows a young recruit how it's done

Wellington City Council is backed by a quiet army of volunteers who work in community centres during the day, suburban halls at night and on hillsides at weekends - to make things better for everyone who lives in the city.

They might work for free, but they are rewarded in friendships, with finished projects, with satisfaction at pushing their boundaries. And they bring communities and people together.

The Wellington Emergency Management Office supervises teams of 24 rural firefighters, 130 civil defence centre volunteers and 15 urban search and rescuers. These are all people who are prepared to do hours of training to be ready in an emergency.

At Wellington Botanic Garden and Otari-Wilton's Bush volunteers arrange special events and work as guides and hosts for visitors. In the city's reserves and green belts, community environmental groups plant and restore vegetation and control pest animals and weeds.

Volunteers who prefer wild things can be trained at Wellington Zoo for indoor and outdoor roles. They gain an insight into conservation and education and work with people and animals.

Other volunteers are motivated by the dread of people being without a good book to read. Wellington City Libraries has 85 volunteers who provide a free door-to-door book delivery service to 220 people who are housebound, including people in 15 rest homes.

Librarian Maria Anselma, who manages the Housebound Library Service, visits people who can't visit the library to find out what they want to read or listen to. Then she and her colleagues look for the right matches. People are able to receive up to 12 items a month.

Maria says the volunteers are readers themselves and can imagine what it would be like not to have a book on hand.

 "We have volunteers who have worked for us for years and years," she says. "It's a free service as well."

Most of the city's community centres have a part-time coordinator who works with a volunteer management committee to run day-to-day activities at the centre, and provide support for new groups and projects that respond to community needs.

Craig Starnes is a mountain biker and volunteer track builder. For the past 15 years he has worked on mountain bike tracks, which are also used by runners and walkers.

Working with other volunteers he has been a leading figure on projects in the Polhill and Te Kopahou reserves in the hills near Brooklyn.

Craig is helping a big team of volunteers to add another 12km to the network with the new tracks from Aro Street to George Denton Park and up to the Radar Dome. Work started on these tracks in 2005 and will take another year or two to finish.

Craig describes himself as a 'super user' of the city's track network and he says it's good to be able to pay a bit back by building new tracks or maintaining them.

If you would like to volunteer, phone us on (04) 499 4444. We will help find opportunities to suit your skills, interests and availability.

Wellington Volunteers