Long-term projects aimed at threatened species recovery, and in particular kiwi survival, need funding for more than one or two-year terms.
Kiwi Coast trustee and Tutukaka Landcare Coalition founder Mike Camm
Conservation volunteers might not quite be worth their weight in gold, but Kiwi Coast reckons those who support its 120 component entities are worth a great deal.
Data collated by the Kiwi Coast Trust to quantify the worth of projects and establish how costs were covered, showed voluntary contributions were worth almost $1 million .
The grand total for the 12-month period was a "staggering" $2,570,173, Kiwi Coast co-ordinator Ngaire Sullivan said, including traps, toxins, monitoring equipment, communications and time spent checking traps, paid or unpaid.
Voluntary labour, valued at $20 per hour, was the single biggest component — $934,550 — more than one-third of the resources going into practical conservation action on the Kiwi Coast.
"This demonstrates the huge reliance conservation in New Zealand has on people volunteering their time and working without pay to ensure our native wildlife and forests can thrive," Ms Sullivan said. "We owe huge thanks to all those hard-working land owners and communities out there checking traps, monitoring kiwi on cold winter nights, doing the paperwork — all for the love of our native forests and wildlife. Imagine what Northland would be like without them?"
Kiwi Coast trustee and Tutukaka Landcare Coalition founder Mike Camm said he hoped the assessment would lead to more funders offering multi-year support and contributing to administration costs.
"They need to understand that long-term projects aimed at threatened species recovery, and in particular kiwi survival, need funding for more than one or two-year terms," he said.
The biggest unpaid component was administration, with groups providing 84 per cent of project management, report writing, financial reporting and the essential work of keeping their groups going. That was despite an increasing expectation from many funders that volunteer community groups should operate with similar processes to professional organisations in financial systems, health and safety procedures, data collection and long-term business plans.
Marj Cox, who has been co-ordinating the Mahinepua-Radar Hills Landcare Group for more than 10 years, said she spent 2500 hours on administration in one year.
"The endless report writing and funding applications take us away from the real work we set up our group up to do — control pests and save kiwi," she said.
Northland Regional Council (NRC) was the next biggest resource provider, contributing 23 per cent — $588,978 worth of traps, toxins, staff time and direct funding through its partnership agreement.
The long-term regional plan would mean this amount would increase dramatically over the next few years, thanks to the council's new pest control rate, introduced this year.
Ms Sullivan said for many projects linked into Kiwi Coast, land owners were happy to "get on with the job" if they were supplied with the hardware, such as traps and toxins.
Kiwi Coast Trust had invested $226,188 of its own funds during the year to help sustain the projects involved with its vision of creating New Zealand's first regional kiwi corridor.
Fifty-two per cent of its operational funds went to supporting groups with paid professional predator trappers targeting strategic areas, and providing additional traps for volunteers to fill key gaps in trapping networks.
It had also provided on-the-ground assistance with operational reviews, while skill-building workshops, in particular well-attended trapper training days and community-led kiwi releases, accounted for 21 per cent of spending.