Free (or Cheap) Volunteer Work in New Zealand
We have more projects in the land of the long white cloud to add so please check back here again soon. Many hostels are open to work exchanges and the number of projects listed on the help exchange websites in relation to population is amongst the highest in the world.
Grassroots Volunteering in New Zealand
The organisations listed below have either got in touch with us to add their details to this or another of our websites, or we otherwise have reason to believe they are actively looking for international volunteers and charge reasonable or no fees to join in, live and work with them:
Department of Conservation
The government agency charged with conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage accepts international volunteers to assist with field work in a range of projects across the country.
Where: Various projects across New Zealand.
Accommodation & Costs: There is generally no charge to participate in their volunteer activities but some projects may request a contribution to transport, food or other costs. Volunteers are usually expected to provide their own accommodation. Often a sleeping bag is required. Sometimes help with local accommodation may be provided due to the location, work and time required of volunteers.
Hostel Work Exchanges
Many hostels use help exchange networks (see below) to find volunteer staff but the following either advertise on their websites or are particularly noted for taking on volunteers:
The Old Countyhouse Backpackers
Ideal for those who wish to stop travelling for a while (minimum three months but ideally for longer), Christchurch’s the Old Countryhouse looks for someone kind, friendly and outgoing to work in their reception. Work is for three and a half days per week. A food allowance is provided along with accommodation in the staff house. They have a volunteer page but it was blank when we last checked.
Sequoia Lodge & Backpackers
They say they always have travellers who want to work for accommodation in Picton. They also provide a free breakfast, laundry, wifi and other bonuses in return for being part of the team. This could include choc pudding and ice cream, and a weekly woofer dinner.
More Hostel Work Exchanges
For those with working holiday visas Surf ‘N’ Snow Backpackers have Working Holiday packages that include accommodation and assistance in obtaining an IRD number and opening a bank account. We couldn’t see any mention of it on our last investigation but in the past they also invited backpackers on a tight budget interested in a work exchange to contact them. The Skyway Lodge near Auckland Airport is also said to exchange a shared room for three hours’ work a day.
In Christchurch, accommodation for a month is provided at Vagabond Backpackers to travellers willing to clean or join the reception team. If you are still homeless you can always do a one to three month stretch in Jailhouse Accommodation. There might be possiblities too in Queenstown with Sir Cedrics Tahuna Pod Hostel.
Originally an old monastery, when Greymouth was flooded the town’s inhabitants used the monastery as a refuge leading to Noah’s Ark‘s name. Our source is from a few years ago but we’ve heard if you do three hours a day helping with the cleaning and laundry or anything else that needs doing and they will hand over a bike and free accommodation. They ask for a minimum stay of seven days but are happy if you can stay longer. Neptunes and Global Village Backpackers are two other places in town to try.
Elsewhere around New Zealand, we have the following down as good leads for travellers looking to chip in with the chores in exchange for a bed: Tatahi Lodge (Hahei Beach), Birdsong Backpackers (Hokitika), Stables Lodge (Napier) and Alpine Holiday Apartments and Campground in Hammer Springs, where couples or friends travelling together are preferred. Try also National Park Backpackers, found in a small alpine village in Central North Island, near the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. They could do with a motivated traveller willing to help with the daily housekeeping for four hours a day in exchange for food and a dorm bed.
We had a few hostels down with this sort of thing in Nelson but only Nelson Beach Hostel Backpackers and the Paradiso Backpacker Hostel seem to have survived the test of time. We’d noticed the Paradiso advertising for a night porter to work on a part paid and part for free accommodation basis for three or four nights a week. Applicants were expected to stay for at least a couple of months.
Another slew of hostels we’ve seen in the past looking for volunteers, but who don’t mention anything of the kind on their websites, are Sunflower Lodge (New Plymouth), LKNZ Backpackers (Ohakune), Astray Motel and Backpackers (Rotorua), TripInn Hostel (Westport) and Annie’s Nirvana Lodge (Takaka).
Pillows Lodge, in Orewa, once expressed a willingness to take on a skilled handyman to help with renovations on a work for keep basis. Whether they will want someone for more general task is unknown but there is no harm in asking. Waiheke Island’s Hekerua Lodge is also thought to extend an invite to join their staff of international gallivanters on a work for keep basis.
Hostel and other work for accommodation positions are also listed in Backpacker Job Board.
Other Opportunities to Volunteer in New Zealand
Striving to be an example of a more sustainable, collaborative way of living within their environment, Wilderland aims to go beyond WWOOFing by inviting couples, with or without school age children, to join their way of life and take responsibility for an area where they can flourish with their creative dedication. Skills wanted include IT, beekeeping, finance, graphic design and orchard care.
Help Exchange Networks in New Zealand
Farm Helpers in New Zealand (FHiNZ) sells a booklet listing about 350 farms throughout New Zealand. These farmers welcome visitors to stay for free, food and board provided, in exchange for 4-6 hours work each day. The booklet is available for NZ$25 via www.fhinz.co.nz and can be used by a family, couple or two people travelling together.
More Volunteering in New Zealand Resources
New Zealand Trust for Conservation Volunteers – NZTCV provides information on wildlife, botanical, restoration and other conservation projects found across the length of the land of the long white cloud. Hundreds of projects are listed on their boards.
Other Ways to Travel or Stay for Free in New Zealand
Stay for free in return for caring for local residents’ homes or pets. Join Trusted Housesitters to live rent free as a house sitter (Americans may prefer this link). You can also get a free Airbnb credit from us here. To get around New Zealand free cars or campervans are available to travellers with a full driving license valid in New Zealand willing to take hire vehicles from where they are to where rental companies want them to be. See www.transfercar.co.nz for more details.
WWOOFing in New Zealand – Rebecca Morley recounts her experiences on three farms in New Zealand.
How to Volunteer at a Festival in New Zealand – If you love festivals but don’t love the price tag that comes with them, then volunteering for New Zealand festivals is for you. Those on a working holiday visa have the amazing opportunity to volunteer at festivals in New Zealand. Be part of New Zealand cultural events, gain skills for life, make new friends, and see incredible performances for free.
HelpX in the Middle Earth at Judith and Martin’s Place – Aurélie and Franck are invited into a home in New Zealand where they clean red wine off a wedding dress and fix a henhouse.
Cool People Met While WWOOFing: Lee the Dish Fairy – Celeste reminisces about a Korean friend she knew in New Zealand.
Work Exchange New Zealand: 30+ Bonuses I Enjoyed at my South Island HelpX Gigs – Lash spent half of her three months in New Zealand with HelpX hosts. She shares some of the wonderful extra things you might get to see, do, learn, eat and enjoy whenever you join a work exchange assignment.
Work Exchange: 50 Benefits I Enjoyed on New Zealand HelpX Gigs – Along with a bed and food Lash got some perks she not have been able to enjoy if I had not joined her work exchanges.
* not all these volunteer experiences are with grassroots NGOs or low cost organisations
Image courtesy Kathrin & Stefan Marks