Caring for the environment  |  18 Sep 2019

Community volunteers have helped plant at least 29,000 shrubs and trees in Christchurch parks and reserves in the past year - work that has a value of up to $1.5 million.

The work has been carried out through Christchurch City Council’s Community Partnership Programme which aims to boost community-led action in the city’s green spaces.

It includes running volunteer planting days, clean ups, and working with schools to encourage kids to help improve their local parks and waterways.

The programme is now in its second year of operation and receives an annual grant from the Community Resilience Fund for two years.

Recognising the work of local volunteers is timely because this week is the 50th anniversary of Conservation Week - a national celebration that encourages people to get involved in nature and help take care of it.

There were more than 38,000 volunteer hours recorded across all Council Parks programmes in the last financial year, a 27 per cent increase on the previous year. This represents 29,000 plants and trees put into the ground, an outcome that would normally cost between $1.1 million and $1.5 million to achieve.

Council Manager of Parks, Programmes and Partnerships Kate Russell says the fund is a great example of what can be achieved when the Council is able to boost community involvement and volunteering.

“The numbers only tell part of the story, the significance of the stories and goodwill generated can’t be overestimated. It really nurtures active citizenship. The feelings of guardianship that have been generated through this work are where the true value lies.

“The programme caters for people who want to do one-off service in their community parks as well as those who see themselves as longer term guardians of their parks and who give hundreds of voluntary hours individually each year.”

As word spreads, staff are receiving a steadily increasing number of enquiries about projects that can be supported through the fund, she says.

In 2018, a total of 62 events took place, including 20 that were one-off events and more than 40 that have sparked an ongoing commitment with multiple events over the year and more planned in the future.

Ms Russell believes the numbers will grow even more when a city-wide Volunteer Database system is introduced and figures can be more accurately reported.

The Community Partnership Programme is managed by a Co-ordinator and a full-time Schools Support Field Ranger.

With current funding coming to an end by the end of 2020, the Council's Parks team is exploring ways to create a more permanent programme, she says.