Volunteer Work New Zealand

All over New Zealand you’ll find lots of volunteering opportunities, from helping out at the SPCA to spending time in soup kitchens. However we’re going to focus on conservation volunteer work to help preserve and conserve New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna. For a once in a lifetime experience why not offer your time and skills to the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) and participate in one of the many volunteer schemes around the country.

Unlike some volunteer options you don’t have to pay to volunteer with the DOC but in exchange you often get basic accommodation. In some circumstances you may be offered assistance with food and travel.

What is the New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC)?

“We are the government agency charged with conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage.

Our vision is for New Zealand to be the greatest living space on Earth.

Our vision means ensuring that New Zealanders gain a wide range of benefits from healthy functioning ecosystems, recreation opportunities, and through living our history.” – DOC

Volunteer Work New Zealand DOC

Many of the schemes allow you access to some remote parts of New Zealand that are normally off limits to the general public. Some allow you to stick around in some of your favourite places in New Zealand. Some schemes offer you the chance to give back and help support the environment for a day. Whether it be a day experience, a week long experience or a more specific form of conservation that you’re after, there is an option for everyone. Projects include wildlife, land restoration and assisting with tracking and research projects.

If you’re seriously interested in conservation and gaining some valuable experience then there are projects available that you would need to apply for in advance.

For backpackers looking for something different during their travels here are a few options for volunteer projects to get you started off…

Volunteering Opportunities New Zealand

1. Wildlife Viewing Ranger – Sandfly Bay
Be repellent ready but in Sandfly Bay volunteers are required from October through to Easter on a Yellow-Eyed Penguin project. That’s right, you can volunteer to manage visitor numbers and educate visitors on the rarest penguin in the world. You may need to tell people off if their behaviour near the penguins is unacceptable! You will need to commit for a minimum of a month and be available between 5pm to 10pm. Not bad to put on your CV really, all you’d need to do is convince your potential employer that you are telling the truth. (Learn how to repel sandflies)
sandfly bay volunteering opportunity new zealand

Sandfly Bay – Pavel Špindler [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Tiritiri Matangi Island Volunteers
Volunteers are needed on this bird sanctuary island all year round for one week stints. Although actual birding conservation isn’t available you still spend a week within a bird sanctuary waking up and going to sleep with some of New Zealand’s, and the world’s, rarest birds. During your stay on Tiritiri Matangi Island you’ll help with weeding, cleaning and general maintenance. Your aim is to help keep Tiritiri Matangi Island pest free. Preference is given to New Zealand residents however if this is something you really want to get involved with there’s no harm in applying. Apply here.
volunteer work new zealand bird sanctuary - takahe tiritiri matangi island

Takahe on Tiritiri Matangi Island – By Sandy Austin from Auckland, New Zealand [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Become a Hut Warden

Hut wardens are needed all over the country. You normally need to be able to spare a minimum of 7 nights and being an experienced tramper is beneficial. Your general duties include making sure the hut is welcoming to all the trampers passing through. So a bit of cleaning is required and you may need to do a little bit of maintenance work too. Depending on where you become a hut warden means your duties will vary. For example in some locations you’ll need to have a first aid certificate. In others you’ll need to know the area well in order to provide information to the trampers.

If you’re interested in becoming a hut warden and spending a week in the wilderness of a New Zealand national park then there are plenty of hut warden volunteer options throughout the country. Find out more

hut warden volunteer work with DOC in nz

Hidden Falls Hut: warden’s part, Hollyford Track. – By Sarang (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Lake Waikaremoana – various opportunities
Located on the East Coast in Te Urewera on the shores of Lake Waikearemoana this is an opportunity to get involved with biodiversity monitoring. Or you could help with track, hut and campground maintenance. If that’s not your thing then help out with vegetation removal. You’ll have accommodation provided for the length of your stay. For all these opportunities they’d like you to volunteer from between 2 to 12 weeks. This is a great option for a couple who wants to get away somewhere quiet but also get close to nature.
volunteering new zealand - lake waikaremoana

Great Walk Lake Waikaremoana- By Michal Klajban (Hikingisgood.com) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Kapiti Island Nature Reserve
Kapiti Island near Wellington is stunning. There are various volunteering opportunities here from day trips (groups only) to month long stints (10 days on, 4 days off, 10 days on). Duties include, housework, maintenance, weeding, beach cleanups painting… This is hard but rewarding work. As a bonus you don’t have to pay to stay on the island during the summer season. Find out more Kapiti Island from the Maungakotukutuku Saddle, New Zealand, 3 November 2006
6. Pukaha Mount Bruce Conservation
This is a great conservation programme to get involved in if you are looking for some conservation experience. This option is for the slightly more dedicated backpacker with a minimum stay of 4 weeks. As a volunteers you’ll assist at the wildlife centre in an array of jobs. Tasks to include maintenance, tracking (kiwis and kokapos), planting, recording and weeding. Find out more
mount bruce volunteer work nz

View from lookout at Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre – By russellstreet (View from lookout, Mount Bruce Wildlife Centre) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

7. Beach Clean Ups

There are fairly regular beach clean ups organised all over the country. Find out when a local beach near you has an organised clean up day and get out there for a few hours. Pick up all that nasty rubbish that others left behind. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours on a beach knowing that you’re doing your bit.


This is just a sample of some of the great volunteering opportunities there are in New Zealand. Explore New Zealand away from the tourist trail and try something new and different whilst giving back. Whether you need a couple of cheap weeks during your travels or you’d love to get some conservation experience behind you, volunteering with the DOC is a great place to start.

If you are heading to New Zealand on a bit of a long trip and fancy getting away from the same old backpacker story why not get a ‘job’ with a difference and do some volunteer work somewhere for a week. Get off the beaten track to experience parts of New Zealand that nearly all backpackers miss out on.

Of course if you want paid work while in New Zealand check out our current job listings.