Speech: Volunteering Mid & South Canterbury Volunteer Recognition Breakfast

  • Jo Goodhew
Community and Voluntary Sector

E aku rangatira, tēnā koutou katoa. Ka nui te honore ki te mihi ki a koutou.

Good morning everyone. It is a real pleasure to be here this morning in my home town!

Thank you to Volunteering Mid & South Canterbury for inviting me to join in recognising the wonderful job done by the volunteers in this region.

I would also like to acknowledge and congratulate the newly elected Mayor of Timaru, Damon Odey. It is great to have you here to help recognise the valuable contribution made by these volunteers.

I would also like to acknowledge the efforts and contributions of the volunteers here today.

As we are nearing the end of another year, it is a great time to reflect on what you have achieved.

Let me begin by talking a little bit about the vital contribution made by volunteers to the economy and social fabric of New Zealand.

Role of volunteering in New Zealand

Across the sector over one million volunteers contribute around 270 million hours annually, providing approximately 76 per cent of the non-profit workforce and contributing about 2.3 per cent to New Zealand’s GDP.

Volunteers work in very diverse fields across non-profit and government sectors, and provide services that most New Zealanders could not do without.

Volunteers provide lifesaving services in the areas of fire fighting, search and rescue, coast guard and surf-lifesaving. They serve the community by providing meals on wheels, youth mentoring and phone counselling services.

Volunteers are also the backbone of amateur sports, arts and cultural events, churches, community festivals, schools fairs, environmental projects and environmental clubs.

This extensive list still does not cover the complete range of services volunteers provide.

Almost everywhere we choose to look, we can find people in New Zealand volunteering their services.

Another way of thinking about volunteering is to consider what would happen if people stopped volunteering.

As I am sure you can all imagine, this would have far reaching consequences for New Zealand.

The country’s amateur sporting infrastructure would falter, arts and cultural events would be unaffordable to run, schools would have no governance or fundraising capacity and some social services would no longer be provided.

Small communities would be especially vulnerable to fire, search and rescue services would be unavailable, beaches would have no safe swimming zones, recreational fishing grounds would be over-fished, and decades of pest control would be undermined.

When you look at the voluntary sector from this perspective, you can see what an absolutely vital role volunteers play in creating the society we live in here in New Zealand.

Statistics about volunteering in New Zealand

New Zealanders are often perceived as a charitable nation by our international peers.

Although we do not have data about volunteering in New Zealand over a particularly lengthy period of time, what the numbers do show is that the volunteering ethos in our communities is alive and well.

The data suggests that just under a third of New Zealanders volunteer for an organisation, and almost twice this number assist others outside their own household.

These figures are reflected in the 2012 New Zealand General Social Survey.

It shows that 30 per cent of the total population is undertaking voluntary work for a group or organisation and 62 per cent of the total population is undertaking unpaid work outside their own household.

These figures indicate that helping out and lending a hand forms a large part of our national identity.

When I look around this room, I can see the numbers reflected in reality.

Work done by Volunteering Mid & South Canterbury

Despite the fact that you are a relatively young organisation, you have been extremely active in the region and taken on the challenge of increasing volunteering numbers with an amazing spirit of determination.

This year alone, you have placed 110 volunteers in 138 volunteer roles.

You are also doing a wonderful job of integrating migrants into the community.

Between the 1st of October 2012 and March 2013, just over 30 per cent of the volunteers who registered with Volunteering Mid & South Canterbury identified as being non-New Zealanders.

Through the provision of free volunteer recruitment and placement services, you have been able to place new migrants into volunteering positions, allowing them to better integrate into the community.

Volunteering affords opportunities for new migrants to practice conversational English, share their existing skills, learn new ones, and build social networks.

This in turn prevents social isolation and helps migrants feel connected to their new community, which is such an important step in building a new life in a new place.

Government involvement in volunteering

The Government recognises how important volunteering is to the social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being of New Zealand.

The Government is continuing to work towards more strategic and long-term investment in local communities to help communities, hapū and iwi achieve their goals through community-led development initiatives.

The Government is committed to supporting volunteers through initiatives like the Support for Volunteering Fund.

The Support for Volunteering Fund is administered by the Department of Internal Affairs to promote and support volunteering in New Zealand through grant funding.

I understand that you received just over $23,000 from the Fund in this financial year. That is a good example of the practical support government can provide to volunteering.

Finally, I would like to thank all of you here today for your efforts serving your communities.

You are fully deserving of the recognition you are receiving this morning.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the event. It has been an honour to come and talk to the volunteering community in my home region.

Thank you.

Nō reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.