“Councillor Corner” for Paparoa Press and Maungaturoto Matters 

January 2019 –

Eight years ago when I was first elected to the district health board the health and wellbeing of Northlanders was of great interest to me, including prevention of illness and finding ways to overcome the burden of disease that many Northlanders faced, especially those with limited means. A holistic approach to health and wellbeing which included people’s whole situation – their family and community supports, psychological coping, financial wellbeing, connection to the world and to each other. However, mostly I found the focus of health in New Zealand was actually on medical diseases, surgical operations and pharmaceuticals.

When I joined the board of Northland Rural Support Trust it was starting to increase the focus on the wider wellbeing of rural residents during periods of adverse events such as floods and drought. The main focus was of course on financial issues, ensuring stock were getting adequate feed, and animal welfare. Farmers’ wellbeing was being impacted, but for the majority of those who dealt with affected farmers, they did not have the tools to recognise signs of depression, or what support to offer.

In my district council role local government legislation had already removed the four wellbeings, which had re-directed councils’ focus more narrowly onto areas such as infrastructure, waters, and community facilities.

So I am thrilled that now as we head into 2019 these situations are markedly different. The NDHB has a major focus on social issues, multi disciplinary teams, and prevention of illness, and understanding the social determinants of health – including poor housing, health literacy, and disadvantage.

The Rural Support Trust in Northland has been taking the lead in training their staff and other rural professionals about wellbeing particularly focusing on the Ministry of Health five ways to wellbeing – Connect, Give, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Be Active https://www.mentalhealth.org.nz/home/ways-to-wellbeing

Local government legislation is in place to reinstate the promotion of the four wellbeings – economic, environmental, social and cultural – into local government’s statutory purpose.

These organisations and others are also focusing on the wellbeing of their staff as a priority. Together we will build healthy and thriving communities for now and the future.

Northern Advocate Northland Councillor Interviews January 2019

Q.  What are you most proud of achieving in this term?

A.  As a new district Councillor there was such a lot to learn – the business of Council, understanding governance in local government, as well as the represenative role. I already had expereince in governance and believe I learnt quickly how to be a good representative of the Kaipara constituents. I do this by listening to their issues, and taking them seriously, and then either linking them with the right area of Council, helping them navigate their journey through the bureaucracy, or asking questions in the right places to progress an issue.

When we have asked our community for their views on issues I have made sure that they are thoroughly considered in our deliberations, as I know what it is like to have your say and feel that is it has been a waste of time.

I am also proud to have been involved in working directly with our local communities to assist them to achieve their goals.

Q.  Will you be standing again in 2019?

A.  I haven’t decided yet. I am also a Director on the Northland District Health Board and have a part time job as manager of a Social Services agency, Jigsaw North, so its been a busy three years. I am reviewing my options for 2019.

Q.  What would you like to see happen in your district (or region) in the future?

A.  I would love to see some Provincial Growth Funding come into Kaipara to assist with the large number of projects that we need for our district. With a limited ratepayer base and rates income, we struggle to be able do all we would like to do, to make Kaipara the thriving district it can be. So if projects such as our walkways/cycleways; water storage; digital support for rural communities and roading – which remains the biggest area of concern and spend in the Kaipara district – could be supplemented by central government Provincial Growth Funding we would all win.

December 2018 –

Community Consultation was certainly one of the things that I wanted to see improved when I joined Council two years ago. My experience had been frustrating prior to that under the Commissioners’ governance, when I felt there was limited community connection between the council and residents, and community views put forward were not sometimes understood or appreciated. The Commissioners had a job to do, which was stabilising debt and getting systems in order. Once a democratically elected Council was in place, we needed to decide how to best engage and consult with the community to get a range of views so we could make the best decisions. We often hear people in power talk about the “silent majority” and make assumptions about what that majority view may be, or if people don’t engage in the particular consultation then they must be happy with what is happening. Again this is an assumption that makes it easy to justify a certain decision but is not evidenced by anything. During our Long Term Plan process we received around 300 submissions and these views certainly influenced our decision making across a variety of areas. However I know that many people are unsure about how to make a formal submission, or wonder whether there is any point because they think Council will do what they want regardless of their view.

This Council does want to hear your opinions, so one way we have decided to increase the number and range of views we receive is through the People’s Panel. The purpose of this is to see what views different groups have on particular subjects, such as those in a certain age range, location, urban, rural, land owners, renters, unemployed, business owners, new resident or any other demographic.

Once you register for the panel you will be sent brief surveys from time to time via email. You complete those that interest you, and key findings and results will be shared with you. Personal details will not be shared and your individual answers will not be identified. Formal consultation will still occur and you will be notified about these also.

Now it is up to us to really listen to your views, and up to you to please join the People’s Panel so we hear your thoughts amongst the range of views. Go to www.kaipara.govt.nz/panel

November 2018 –

Communities and people in Kaipara do amazing things. There are many groups of people doing great things to improve our district. Sometimes it is an individual who has a vision, brings others along and creates something great, or it may be a well established group being there for the community should others want to take up bowls, tennis or gardening for example, or have community issues they want others’ input on. Country Calender recently featured our very own Otamatea Harbour Care group instigated locally to improve the state of the harbour by planting. They have done such a great job of bringing others along and together are achieving way more than anyone could alone.

Another example is the Mangawhai Factory Opportunity Shop, started 12 months ago by 3 women, which has now given away money from their op shop sales, to over 25 community groups to the tune of $100.000. I attended their first birthday in October and was impressed by what they had achieved. This seems to me like a win-win-win-win-win situation. A win for those who give away their used goods knowing others will benefit, win for those who purchase them locally at great prices, win for the Factory Op Shop committee who are enjoying the chance to help the community and win for the community groups who benefit from the donations, and a further win for those who benefit from what the organisations provide. Plus the environment benefits from less waste. I know the group is keen to help any other communities across Kaipara set up a similar enterprise, so get in touch if this is of interest.

The Maungaturoto op shop operates in a similar fashion and many community groups and projects have benefited from this great initiative. There are lots of winners there too.

I was really fortunate to be the representative from Otamatea ward on the Citizen awards committee of Council recently selecting the recipients of this year’s citizen awards. It was inspiring reading about the many different nominations, all who do such great things in their communities, sometimes having done so for many decades. The award ceremony will be on 2 November so by the time you read this, the awards may have already been bestowed upon this year’s worthy winners. Well done to them all.

October 2018 –

It seems to make sense that councils working together would be good for our district as well as the whole region. Certainly when I joined Council it was one of the areas that I was interested in KDC pursuing. So I am pleased to say that there has been some progress in this regard.

You may remember a few years ago the Local Government Commission undertook a consultation process to look at whether the Northland three district councils and the regional council should be combined into a unitary authority. The decision was to leave things as they were, but with recommendations for the councils to work more closely together on regional priorities and especially to look at any options for shared services.

At this time, 2015, the councils were beginning to work together and this has strengthened over the last three years. What has been created is Northland Forward Together, a collective plan for the four councils to work together with the vision of “Together lifting the overall wellbeing of our people and our place.”

Some examples of progress of co-operation are basic such as a One Calender to co-ordinate meeting and conference dates and places across Northland; or more significant such as speaking with One Voice on regional matters; joint procurements of insurance and telephone systems; and the Northland Transport Alliance, which is a four council alliance established in 2016 to co-ordinate work programmes, align contracts and ideally create efficiencies. Other areas of interest particularly to Kaipara are the Digital Enablement plan, a group that I am part of, and a review of rating policies.

The district health boards in our region – Northland, Waitemata, Auckland and Counties Manukau have also developed a strong regional voice with central government, and have created extensive regional plans, which direct how we work together to achieve better outcomes for all our people. Shared services occur across some administrative functions, shared procurement is saving us money and clinically there are many care pathways and services that are shared.

As health board directors and councillors it is up to us to set the direction, monitor accountability, make sure we keep our own local voice, and ensure that these programmes and forums are more than just talk fests. So far I continue to be optimistic about this.

August 2018

At our June Council meeting we updated the Citizens Awards Policy, which outlines the process for recognising people living in our district who have by personal leadership, inspiration, sacrifice or devotion to a cause made a significant contribution to the well-being of the Kaipara district and its citizens.  I know there are many people in our area who could be eligible for such recognition, so think about who you could put forward for a Citizens Award. Nominations open 1 August and close 31 August. See the KDC website for more information.

The Rates for the year have been set so rates accounts are on their way. Average rates increases are not as high as we originally anticipated in the draft Long Term Plan, however with property revaluations there will be a range of increases across the district. Council has a rates rebates scheme for those on a low income and I recommend you look at this, and contact Council staff if needed, if you think this could help you or your community group.

The Kaipara District Plan explains how Council will manage the environment and what activities people can do as of right (permitted activities) and what activities need resource consent (non permitted activities), and how certain activities may be carried out. Council has agreed to review the District Plan starting this year. Like all local government processes it will not happen overnight, but the first focus will be on growth areas with potential for rezoning. This means that certain permitted activities, such as residential development may change across the district in response to the need for more residential housing in some areas. I know that this has caused frustration for some people wanting to do development locally, so I am pleased to say that the small towns in Otamatea – Kaiwaka, Maungaturoto and Paparoa – can expect to be part of this review as our area is experiencing significant growth.

July 2018 –

The week of 17 – 23 June was national Volunteer Week. I am wondering if it passed you by unnoticed or maybe you read or saw something which acknowledged the many services, events and activities that could not occur without volunteers. This year’s message was “Volunteers are the Heart of the Community.” By many, the work will be completed; Ma tini, ma mano, ka rapa te whai. When you live in a small community like ours it is impossible to miss the volunteers – school PTA and board, sports teams – coaches, fundraisers and managers, churches, garden beautification, the Press gang, hall committee, Progressive Paparoa, charitable trusts, fire and emergency services, Lions club and many others.

Kaipara District Council’s vision of Thriving Communities Working Together could absolutely not occur without volunteers.

Community groups often say they can’t get young people to volunteer, or become involved in their organisation. They worry that the average age of their group’s members is getting older, and that their organisation may not survive into the future.

There are many advantages in having young people involved in organisations – they are often energetic and enthusiastic, and can bring new life and fresh ideas. In some cases they can help with the more physical tasks that older members may no longer be able to do.

Young people usually want to have fun while they are helping out. This may not necessarily involve being with other young people, but certainly with others where they can have an enjoyable time. They may not want to commit to a specific role or take on a long-term commitment, but may be interested in one off or short-term opportunities more so than older people.

They may also be looking for a chance to increase their skills and add to their curriculum vitae. Opportunities to assist them with their careers, or increase the likelihood of obtaining a job can be a great motivator.

Communication with young people may also need a different approach. Obviously social media is a major player in communicating to young people, and can be used to showcase your organisation. It is great to have Proudly Paparoa Facebook page to send messages out to a younger audience. Photos and short video clips help to draw attention to what you are doing.

Volunteering Northland provides a recruitment and referral service for volunteers, and matches them with potential organisations looking for volunteers. Perhaps surprisingly, a third of the people that contact them looking for volunteer roles are under 30 years old. Older people may of course already be volunteering, or know where to go for volunteer roles, but either way this is a good trend for the future of our communities and for citizenship in general.

June 2018 –

This year, as required by legislation, the Kaipara District Council is undertaking what is called a Representation Review.

What this means is that we are in the process of deciding what arrangements will be in place for the next district council elections. The independent Electoral Officer is leading this process.

Representation reviews are conducted by councils every six years to review the ward boundaries, how councillors are elected (wards, at large or a mixture), the total number of councillors, how many councillors in each ward to fairly represent the constituents, and whether to consider community boards.

This is not the time to review the voting system, which is currently Single Transferable Voting (STV). This will stay in place until at least after the 2019 election and will be reviewed sometime after that election. Maori wards are also not part of this current representation review.

Consultation will occur in August after Council has agreed on an initial proposal to be considered, taking into account the legal requirements and some pre-consultation views, which have been received. Currently there are three wards in Kaipara. The Otamatea ward includes Mangawhai, Kaiwaka, Maungaturoto, Tinopai and much of Paparoa and Matakohe. There has been a large increase in the number of residents in Otamatea over the last six years, so some change in ward boundaries will be necessary to keep fair representation across the district.

Council welcomes a new CEO later in the year, Louise Miller, who has a range of local government and other relevant senior management experience, most recently at Tauranga City Council. I believe this will be a great step forward for KDC and our wider district.

As always please be in touch if I can be of assistance to you as your local Councillor.

May 2018 –

One of the things I enjoy about being a Councillor is the opportunity to hear residents’ and ratepayers’ views about their community, their organisation or their part of the district. It helps me to understand how the decisions that Council makes impact directly, and how we can set policy to make the experience of living and working in Kaipara more positive. So it has been great attending the long term plan meetings around the district, reading through the 274 submissions and hearing the oral submissions. I am naturally an optimistic, positive and solution focused person so I have appreciated the ideas and views that can move our district forward and improve how we do things.

Being on the district health board is equally rewarding, but there is little opportunity for community interaction and gaining such views on health services and processes. While we do have a lot of interaction with health providers and internal services, I also find it helpful to get local feedback on the issues affecting people in our area, so do get in touch if you have something to share.

This month as well as the long term plan issues, we have also been looking at further training needed for Councillors, and the required representation review which will determine how our district local government election boundaries need altering to match the changing population in our district. More information will follow shortly about getting your views heard on this issue.

Now back to reading those submissions.

April 2018 –

You are not too late to send in your thoughts about the Council’s Long Term Plan. The LTP includes the proposed activities and priorities, along with how Council proposes to pay for these, for the next 10 years, with particular emphasis on the next three. Areas that may interest you to comment on are:

  • Walking and cycling strategy
  • Increasing high speed internet coverage
  • Promoting tourism
  • Continuing and/or increasing the forestry rate
  • Equalising charges across the district for wastewater, stormwater and water supply
  • Creating a Council controlled organisation for economic development
  • Proposed Rate changes
  • Review of the current zones in the district in response to growth

Read the Consultation document on the KDC website, and send submissions to council@kaipara.govt.nz by 5 April, or let me know your thoughts and I can pass them on.

We are now half way through our 3 year term, and here is a synopsis of what I been involved with:

  • Met with numerous community groups and organisations, learning what they do in our district
  • Received a number of concerns from residents where I have helped provide information or assisted a resolution where possible
  • Taken community concerns around roading and other local issues into the Long Term Plan priorities
  • Participated in Walking and Cycling strategy, Mangawhai Community Plan and other strategy and policy reviews
  • Been a member of the Community Grants Committee and the MELA (Mangawhai Endowment Lands Authority) committee, reviewing the policies and processes to ensure clarity and fairness, and deciding on funding applications to these committees
  • Been a member on the Remuneration and Performance Committee, now involved in the recruitment process for the new CEO
  • Represented Council as an appointed member of the Sport Northland board to ensure that Kaipara has a voice at that table
  • Working with other Northland councils and bodies for the good of the region
  • Helping to restore trust and confidence in Council

I am looking forward to the next 18 months as we appoint a new CEO for the district and begin to implement the new Long Term Plan.

December 2017 –

We have been an elected Council now for a year and have learned a lot about local government and in particular the workings of our own Council. It has been a steep learning curve as local government is a very different sort of governance, and the responsibilities of Council are large. Deputy Mayor Peter Wethey has now taken over the reigns after the resignation of Mayor Greg Gent, which has made for a smooth transition. Nominations for this role close on December 22 and voting will occur from 26 January until 17 February 2018.

We continue to meet regularly to develop the draft Long Term Plan, which will be out for formal consultation in February. We are reviewing all the activity profiles of the different areas of council business, such as roading, flood protection, storm water, waste water, community, emergency management, district leadership, solid waste, planning and regulatory, to determine the level of service we are able to deliver, and where the priorities are for the next three years.

It has been great to be able to approve grants to some organisations through the Community Assistance Grants and the Mangawhai Endowment Land Grants. These are a way that Council can support the work of local groups, so that together we achieve more for our communities. These grants will come available again next June, and I recommend that community groups check out the criteria to see if you are eligible, and if so plan your application for next year.

I attended the Kaipara Sports Awards in Maungaturoto last month, which was a great showcase of the talent and hard work that our local sportspeople put in to achieve their dreams. It was especially good to see the Masters awards, and show that age is not a barrier for having fun and succeeding in your sport. Congratulations to the winners and nominees. I am now looking forward to the Northland sports awards.

November 2017 (NDHB) –

One of my roles on the Northland District Health Board (NDHB ) is chair of the Community, Public Health and Disability Advisory Committee. This committee includes several external members who along with the board members provide advice to the rest of the board on community, public health and disability issues.

This year our focus has been on older people and those with a disability in Northland, and we have been looking at how NDHB works to deliver services to these groups. Northland’s population is ageing and there are a number of growing challenges facing Northland in this area. Many of us are staying well and active for longer, but due to our longer lives there is also an increased rate of dementia, increased number of hospital admissions at late stages of life, ongoing chronic health issues such as diabetes and heart disease, and stress on carers who may also be elderly.

The government has recently updated both the NZ Disability Strategy and the Healthy Ageing Strategy. It is good to see a shift away from looking at these areas as medical problems to solve, towards a more holistic view of people as a whole and a focus on prevention, wellness and support for independence. The priority for the ageing strategy is adding “life to years” rather than “years to life”.

Northland District Health Board has a great website and Facebook page with updates on services and activities throughout the district – check them out.

I was privileged to go to the launch of Te Ara Oranga – Meth Free Northland recently, which is a two year (at this stage) joint initiative between NZ Police and NDHB funded by the proceeds of crime. There is some great information about this on the Facebook page too, including an explanation about the cycle of meth use, which is very informative.

Noho ora mai ra – Stay well

August 2017 –

The roads, particularly the unsealed roads have taken a more than normal hammering, with the wet winter weather. Thanks to all who attended the roading meetings across the district, and well done to our area, with Maungaturoto having the most attendees. Feedback has indicated they were useful to all parties. Council is setting up several roading groups to develop closer links to residents, to help make decisions together on priorities and to keep the lines of communication open. If you haven’t put your name forward but have an interest, contact Sean Mahoney at smahoney@kaipara.govt.nz

Council’s next long term plan will be in place from July 2018. This is our opportunity for a comprehensive review of where we are heading and what our priorities will be for the next 10 years through to 2028, with particular focus on the next three years. Council has adopted our new vision, which is “Thriving Communities Working Together.” Over the next few months Council will be disseminating information about the process for the long term plan, and finding opportunities to engage with communities to get their views on the future direction. Councillors are having numerous briefings on all the aspects of the long-term plan, which the public are more than welcome to attend. These will be advertised, or contact me if you have an interest in a particular area. The main formal consultation will occur early next year once draft documents have been drawn up.

I was really pleased to be amongst 90 others at the Gala dinner in Paparoa for the Paparoa Community Charitable Trust Lifestyle Village. It was a great night where the committee took the opportunity to tell the community a bit more about where the project is at, to raise a few dollars and have an enjoyable night. This project is a great opportunity for Paparoa and I am excited to support the committee’s vision.

Quote for the month – Challenges are what makes life interesting, and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful – Joshua J. Maine

July 2017 –

The issue of speed past Otamatea High School on Bickerstaffe Road was raised this month by a local resident and again by the high school. Due to the increased traffic using the road, changes to visibility and the number of students crossing the road, it is believed that the speed restriction of 70km is unsafe.

As a result of this approach KDC have commenced a Speed Review, which will also look at other safety improvements in the road in front of the school. Such speed reviews are planned for all schools in Kaipara, as a result of changes in NZTA policy, and it is pleasing that OHS is now in process. The speed along Judd Road has also been mentioned as a problem for walkers who walk the loop. If you have any thoughts or feedback on these issues contact OHS who are providing information directly to KDC to be considered as part of the Speed Review.

The public forum at the start of Council meetings is a chance for individuals or groups to briefly present an issue or concern to the full Council. We have had some interesting representations from, for example, Federated Farmers, community planning group, residents with local issues and Friends of Kai Iwi Lakes. As always concerns or questions in the first instance should be directed to Council staff by phone or email so it can be allocated to the right team to deal with it. The KDC website also provides information regarding council business, so the answer may be there.

Working together with other Northland Councils is something we all see as beneficial. This is becoming well established with the Northland Transport Alliance, which consists of all three Northland district councils, Northland Regional Council and NZTA working together on roading, where they share ideas and skills and save money and resources.

Thought for the month: Do what you can with what you have, where you are. Theodore Roosevelt

June 2017 –

If you are a volunteer in your community, then Volunteer Week in the middle of June was a time for us all to say thanks and to celebrate your efforts. Volunteers in Kaipara are numerous and make a huge difference in many different organisations, groups, events and projects across the whole district. As volunteers you benefit too, through an increased sense of achievement and social connections, but that doesn’t detract from the awesome job done across the district by volunteers to make it our communities stronger and more vibrant.

Volunteering Northland is a Whangarei based organisation dedicated to matching volunteers and organisations, promoting volunteers and supporting organisations to work well with volunteers. I am on their governance board as a representative of the Kaipara district. If you are an organisation looking for volunteers, or are looking for a volunteer role that suits your passions, get in touch with them. They have voluntary positions in Kaipara listed on their website www.volunteeringnorthland.nz

Another organisation I have the privilege to be on their board, in this case as an appointment from Kaipara District Council, is Sport Northland. Having councillors from the four Northland councils helps to ensure equity across the district and brings a local voice to the Sport Northland board table. In our district we have a number of events and activities run by Sport Northland – Project Energise, Watersafe and Kiwisport funding in schools, Active Workplaces, Green Prescription to support individuals to become more active, as well as our Community Connector Roxanne Kelly. Promoting active lifestyles and being involved in sport and recreation in any role and at any age, is something I strongly support.

Thought for the month – It always seems impossible until it is done

Volunteering Northland newsletter article – What is your WHY?

I am fortunate to be a trustee on the Volunteering Northland board. I say fortunate as it gives me an opportunity to be with like-minded people, and use my skills and experiences to work towards creating stronger communities across Northland. This gives me great satisfaction, as well as increasing my knowledge and networks, which then benefits other groups and organisations that I am involved with. Volunteering is a mutual exchange, not only does the organisation benefit, but so does the volunteer.

What creates a good fit between volunteer and an organisation or role? While the task matching and suitability around time required, location and so on are important in determining this, the purpose match is also essential. When you understand better your beliefs, values and purpose for volunteering “Your Why,” and the Why or purpose of an organisation, it helps to find the right organisation to be involved in.

My Why or purpose for volunteering is to assist in improving people’s lives, especially those who are disadvantaged, and seeing individuals, groups and communities achieve their goals and improve their circumstances. Hence Volunteering Northland’s purpose in helping communities become stronger through supporting volunteers and organisations is a good match for me.

Once we are clear about what motivates us and why we do what we do, it helps us to know where we want to put our energies, in our paid work and volunteer time. Simon Sinek and other writers on this topic are worth checking out to help determine your own Why.

“Community Matters” Articles published in local papers


A survey, published to coincide with National Volunteer Week in June 2015, known as the New Zealand General Social Survey asked people whether they had undertaken any volunteering work for a charity or organisation in the four weeks prior to the survey. It found that 30.6% of all those surveyed volunteered during this time, with slightly more women than men volunteering. Those not in paid work volunteered more than those in paid work. Older people also volunteered more often, with 37.7% of 65-74 year olds volunteering, and the least often with 24.8%, were those aged between 25-34 years.

Communities rely on volunteering, or people helping out and our area is no exception. We are fortunate to have so many groups and organisations with people who put up their hands to help in a huge variety of ways. If that is you, Thank You, you add a great deal to our communities and to the people who benefit.

Rather than seeing volunteering as doing something to help others, it can be seen as an exchange. While you are helping others using your skills or time, having volunteers throughout our communities means that you or your family members can also be recipients. You may help with your children’s school or sports teams fundraising, while you are being helped through neighbourhood watch, being taken in an ambulance by volunteers, or by having lovely gardens in the township to enjoy.DSC03172

Volunteering – What’s In It For YOU?

Helping others increases happiness, as many studies have shown. A 2014 Harvard Health report “Simple Changes Big Rewards” showed that people who volunteered monthly were significantly happier than those who had never volunteered. Those who volunteered fortnightly or weekly were even happier.

Volunteering for an organisation or community group can connect you to others and your community, help you make friends, meet people when moving into a new area, find work, learn new skills, have new experiences, develop new interests, feel a sense of achievement, and benefit your mental and physical health.

Being a volunteer gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.

Volunteers, when asked why they do it, often express a sense of achievement and motivation, which comes from their desire and enthusiasm to help. While it is true that you cannot help with everything, what you can do is make your little corner of the world just that little bit better.

It has also been found that employers are much more likely to employ a candidate with volunteering experience over one without, and nearly all volunteers who volunteered to learn new skills had benefited either by getting their first job, improving their salary, or being promoted.

So that has to be good for YOU!

How do we look after our Volunteers?

People volunteer or help out with groups or organisations for many different reasons. As an organisation do you know why your volunteers are there, and do you create an environment that values them and encourages them to participate in the way that best suits them?

Organisations often rely on the goodwill of volunteers, without consideration of the value they bring to the organisation. Volunteers need to know their involvement is making a genuine difference and that their contribution is both recognised and appreciated.

Good volunteer management creates a win-win situation for the volunteers and the organisation. A bit of planning and the right person leading the team can make all the difference to volunteers’ motivation to stay involved.

Looking after volunteers

  • Effectively respond to enquiries and create a welcoming environment
  • Find out what motivates your volunteers so you can keep them interested, it will be different for each person
  • Match volunteers to the roles available in the organisation
  • Share the workload
  • Provide orientation and training where needed
  • Invest time and money into practices such as expense reimbursement and role expectations
  • Have a mentor or someone available for new volunteers to call with queries

Keeping volunteers

  • Understand there are many factors that contribute towards volunteers staying in an organisation, including personal e.g. motivation, life stage, and available time, as well as organisational e.g. length and usefulness of meetings, good leadership and communication
  • Ensure cost is not a barrier to volunteers’ involvement
  • Have an organisational culture that welcomes, values and respects volunteers
  • Ensure you communicate with volunteers and keep them up to date
  • Recognise, appreciate and thank your volunteers and supporters regularly and genuinely – take the time to ask them how they might like to be recognised and rewarded/thanked
  • Have fun
  • Have well run effective meetings – but that is a topic for another day!

Working Together

Community organisations and groups, while working in the same community, can often work in isolation from each other. Time, volunteers and resources are usually limited, and it may seem that there is little chance to stop and reflect on where the group is heading, and what could help them to get there. Some organisations have field workers who are out and about meeting with clients or spreading a message, others are based from home or other offices. In rural or small communities these groups and individuals can be quite spread out. So the opportunity to get together to share with others may be seen as a luxury. Working in isolation and getting on with the job has its benefits – more work can get done with less down time, there is less need to communicate with others before making decisions etc. It also has its down sides – workers and volunteers can get overloaded, become stressed and burnt out. They may not be keeping up with changes in the community, in funding provider’s requirements, and other members of the group can feel left out and lose interest. We are social beings and the opportunity to meet with others doing similar roles can be refreshing and recharging.

Community agency meetings are run in many areas for this very purpose. They are for community agencies to keep each other informed and share ideas and concerns. Many funders, especially government funders, want to see organisations working together and collaborating on projects or sharing their efforts. It is not always possible to do this, and the effort of getting two or more groups together to apply for funds can seem more effort than it is worth. It can however be useful to talk with other similar or complementary groups, so as not to be in competition with each other for funding. It may be that rather than putting together joint proposals, you can at least agree that one group will apply to local funders this month and another organisation will apply next month. The limited pool of money can then be spread across the community. That is a good start at co-operation, and you never know where it may take you.

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