New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2022) 46(1): 3464

Attitudes and motivations of New Zealand conservation volunteers

Research Article
Aaron Heimann 1*
Fabien Medvecky 1
  1. Centre for Science Communication, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin 9054 NZ, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
*  Corresponding author

Biodiversity conservation in Aotearoa New Zealand is of high importance, and efforts to protect vulnerable populations from decline has garnered broad public support. Conservation efforts have been further highlighted with the 2016 announcement of Predator Free 2050, a nationwide goal to eliminate key invasive mammalian predators from New Zealand by the year 2050. Hands-on labour is often needed to complete conservation initiatives, and New Zealand conservation volunteers have shown themselves to be an abundant, effective, and oft-used workforce. However, there is limited knowledge of conservation volunteers on a national scale. This exploratory research aimed to determine what motivates conservation volunteers in New Zealand, gauge their attitudes toward modern-day conservation, and summarise their demographic information. Through a nationwide survey of 986 New Zealand conservation volunteers in 2018, we found that they have a higher than median age, income, education, and are predominantly Pākehā/NZ European and likely retired. The median conservation volunteer has volunteered within 10 km of home for 10 hours a month for 6 years. The conservation and cultural context in New Zealand could be reflected in volunteer motivations and attitudes. New Zealand conservation volunteers are motivated by a feeling of responsibility, with some referencing the Māori concept of kaitiakitanga. There were elements of wanting to right past wrongs and volunteers’ perceived role as stewards of their local environment. Conservation volunteers overwhelmingly agree with the stated goals of Predator Free 2050 and are in favour of current and potential future methods of pest control. They are, however, significantly less confident that Predator Free 2050 goals will be achieved. Conservation volunteers contribute to goals like Predator Free 2050 through their significant voluntary labour. We hope this research contributes to a better understanding of conservation volunteers in New Zealand and leads to strengthening the support for these volunteers and the many community groups they represent.