"Love and learning, the only things worth doing in life.’
What kind of volunteering work do you do? I’ve been a PFK volunteer for about six years since I became interested in Predator Free 2050 and wanted to do something hands-on. I’m a member of Friends Of Shepherds Park because of the cakes and coffee! Seriously, we have grandiose ideas, do interesting things and it’s growing quietly.
My main focus since 2007 has been planting native trees on Motutapu Island. To date, over 500,000 trees have been planted on the island. Ngai Tai has launched an ambitious restoration plan for the island which I volunteer for. I also volunteer for the Kaipātiki Project on a Monday because I like learning about plants.
What inspired you to start volunteering?
I’ve been volunteering on mostly social and youth projects since I was 15 years old. I like the contact and lack of formal structures. Having three children and a mortgage in London was restricting but I still managed to do a bit. I think my socialist thinking and ethos have been a motivator as well as a love of ecology and learning. Every time I go out, I come back with something else to wonder over.
How has volunteering impacted your life? Volunteering shaped my professional life. I was a social worker/family therapist/drug and alcohol counsellor until I retired seven years ago. Now I’m a part-time, amateur, home-grown meddler in ecology. As my friend Ken would say, ‘the worst kind of fool in the world’. I just love it. For me, it’s a reinvention of myself.
What have you enjoyed most about volunteering?
The discovery of how woodland and forests evolve and the parts plants and animals have in an ecosystem is an ongoing story that has me spellbound. The people I work with, their commitment, their talents and their knowledge I find very humbling, I often feel like a kid in a sweet shop when I’m around them. To do what we do needs organisation and support. I enjoy the contact I have with individuals and organisations and I love being part of the team.
Can you share a specific instance where you felt like you made a difference as a volunteer?
The biggest surprise I’ve had started with PFK giving Friends of Shepherds Park four Timms Possum Kill Traps and four DOC 200 Traps (for rats, stoats and hedgehogs) about two years ago. Before that, we were managing 21 bait stations (for rats and mice) in Shepherds Park. To date, we’ve caught 19 possums and the tree canopy and understory have just exploded! We think we’re building a woodland by planting a couple of hundred trees a year, but the birds are planting thousands.
Possums on average eat two kilos of vegetation a day and rats and mice eat a huge quantity of seed. Get rid of them and the trees take off, which leads to more fruit, feeding more birds, which produces more understory, which then becomes trees and the feedback loop continues. I’m amazed at the difference those Timms Traps have made.