Could holidaymakers be environmental restoration practitioners too?

Camping on Great Barrier Is. Another month has almost passed and the end of another year is close. In a few days, motorways will be thick with traffic as holidaymakers exit cities and towns to properties perched where land meets water.

What will they do when they get there? If the weather is good they’ll be on the beach – perhaps having traversed walkways across dunes lovingly replanted with pingao (Ficinia spiralis). They may glance back and momentarily appreciate a new native forest beginning to thicken across a formerly barren hillside. You can see where this might be headed…

It surprised me greatly when members of two different Waikato-based groups, one urban, the other peri-urban, described the lack of local participation in their volunteer activities. Even residents whose properties abut restoration sites rapidly being transformed by regular working bees rarely picked up a spade to help.

I know of excellent educational programmes that take place during the summer that are designed to help holidaymakers see the bigger ecological picture. But could holidaymakers also be enticed to pick up a spade for a few hours or check a few predator traps? Could their ownership of a bach (or crib if you’re a South Islander) extend to practical stewardship for the landscape they’ve chosen to holiday in? What a difference it would make if these holidaymakers opened their arms to the dunes and hillsides and said, “I helped to plant that”.

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4 responses to “Could holidaymakers be environmental restoration practitioners too?

  1. A great idea Monica – I remember Greg Martin saying to Gordon Stephenson at his 80th, that he thought Gordon was crazy, when he was talking to the then Wild Life Service in the early 1980’s about community becoming involved in conservation. Look where that idea is now! As I reflected on that I have asked myself what the future trends will be for citizen involvemnt in conservation – this looks like a great candidate!……but not the only one!!!!

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  2. Love the idea of this Monica – in fact it’s part of the backstory of why we’re working on Volunteer Impact. One of the key parts we’re wondering about, is what does it take to keep those people passionate and connected to those places they’ve been involved in restoring, and keep that energy flowing to more projects when they get home (or head overseas again!).

    There’s a rising trend in voluntourism (like it or hate it!) so we’re seeing greater numbers of tourists involved in projects through organisations like Conservation Volunteers New Zealand. Wouldn’t it be great for those organisations to keep those volunteers in the loop about the projects’ progression?

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  3. I have thought about this too and think that holidaymakers could be a great source of conservation labour. It’s the time of the year when people actually have the time to be involved. One year at Mimiwhangata Coastal Park (run by DOC) we organised a small group to dig out the prickly agaves from the dunes. People were only too willing to help – they just needed someone to identify a task and a little back-up support from DOC. We’re back again this year and now you have me thinking about what could we do this year….

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