Te Puke's volunteer landscape is being put under the spotlight.
Volunteering Bay of Plenty's project initiator Nita Wirepa is half way through a 12-week study to ''try and unpick what volunteering needs there are in Te Puke''.
Her work is in conjunction with COLAB, a collaborative group bringing together a wide range of groups and organisations from Te Puke's social and community sectors.
COLAB co-ordinator Chris Johnstone says the group has been talking about working with EPIC Te Puke and others to find a way of having an ongoing pool of volunteers ''at the ready''.
''It's to, somehow, make it easier for organisations too because it actually is quite a big undertaking to recruit and manage volunteers all the time, so we were looking to find a way to support that.''
She says some groups or organisations need volunteers on an ongoing basis, while others need them short-term or for one-off situations.
''Also during Covid, it came to our attention that we didn't have a group of volunteers that were ready to go who were in the right age group and had been vetted and could be available immediately, but on the other hand there were all these people who wanted to help.
''So we thought we needed to do something, to do some preparatory work, so if there is another pandemic or a natural disaster we had a group ready to go and they knew what they were doing so those people could interface with the Te Puke Community Response Team.''
At the end of the 12-week project, Nita will report back to COLAB.
''After that we will try and set something up to meet the long-term needs. We want it to be centred around Te Puke's needs - that's what we are aiming to come up with,'' says Chris.
Nita says she has been looking at the organisations needing volunteers and what the issues are.
''But I'm also looking at volunteers themselves and seeing what the issues are for them and then trying to understand where the gaps are and where the problems might be,'' she says.
Nita spent the first five weeks of the project talking to groups and individuals, but last week held a public meeting.
''It was a quick test to see if we could get some engagement, which we did. We had 10 people turn up which is great and there were some very good conversations.''
She says it is likely she will run more public engagement sessions before the project winds up.
At the end of the project she will provide COLAB with some advice about what it could do next
''I don't know what that is yet. COLAB are heavily invested in the Te Puke community, so are looking to see where they can add specific value here in terms of the volunteering space.
''There will definitely be some clear recommendations about where to spend their efforts, but I still need to meet with more organisations and I need to get an understanding around the depth behind some of the issues.
''But I can say there is a definite appetite for some volunteer management services here, particularly about how to engage volunteers, but also how to keep volunteers.''