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Want to volunteer?

Volunteer trips take place regularly throughout the year. Usually island and mainland trap checks see volunteers, DOC staff and trustees based a board the DOC vessel Southern Winds.

The trips last between five and seven days and may include trap checking on other nearby predator-free islands along the coast.

All trips are subject to suitable weather and DOC operational requirements.

Payment for these trips is a nominated donation of $1250 per person, paid to the Coal Island Trust. Full payment is required before departure.

Helicopter Trips

Boat trips are our main scheduled volunteer opportunities. However, as the need arises due to an increase in predator numbers in the area, or an expected beech mast season, the Trust also runs extra trips via helicopter.

Volunteers for these trips need to be experienced trampers, able to cope in all weather conditions, be physically fit and have a full range of gear suitable for the conditions.

Helicopters usually fly in and fly out from Orawia (near Tuatapere) and are for four to five days. Occasionally trips may be as short as one full day.

Accommodation is in the DOC huts on the mainland, – the historic Oil Store and the Te Oneroa Aframe – or, on Coal Island, at the bivvy. However, participants may be asked to use their own tents if other accommodation is unavailable. On these trips, volunteers supply their own food and the trust provides all safety equipment, including handheld radios, EPIR Band first aid kits.

Sample Volunteer Programme

Volunteers meet in Te Anau at the Department of Conservation to go through the quarantine process that checks for rodents and seeds on clothing and in packs. This usually occurs the night before departure, meaning a night’s accommodation may be required at the volunteer’s own expense.

Your adventure begins with a watertaxi ride across Lake Manapouri to West Arm, where you transfer to bus to travel over Wilmot Pass and into Deep Cove where the Southern Wind will be waiting. At each stage, everyone helps with the loading and unloading of gear and food.

The vessel then heads for Coal Island down the Fiordland coastline via Doubtful Sound.

During the next five to seven days you will be enjoy an experience that very few people get the chance to experience, in one of the most stunningly beautiful wilderness areas of New Zealand.

During the trip other work is often carried out by DOC staff which you may be expected to assist with. Coal Island and mainland traps will be cleared and reset.

All trips are weather dependent and there is no guarantee of departure.

Become a Volunteer

Join us by registering your interest as a volunteer


Who makes my travel arrangements to and from Te Anau?

You will need to make your own arrangements for travel to and from Te Anau. We recommend you plan to arrive the afternoon before your scheduled departure from Te Anau because of quarantine requirements. You are responsible for arranging your Te Anau accommodation.

Transport from Queenstown airport can be arranged through [email protected] or a charter can be arranged with Trips & Tramps – [email protected].

Due to no departure being guaranteed, we strongly recommend you purchase fully flexible flights and travel insurance.

What maps cover the area we’ll be working in?

Maps will be provided to coverthe areas you will be working in. If you want to bring you own map, look for Topomap, 1:50,000, sheet B46 & B47, Puysegur.

What about safety?

A detailed safety briefing will be conducted before boarding the Southern Winds or as part of the quarantine checks. Emergency contact form can be filled out then if not done before your arrival.

Where do we sleep?

Accommodation is aboard the Southern Winds.

Why do you require a donation?

A nominated donation of $1250 per person is requested. The cost to maintain Coal Island as predator free is very expensive, mainly due to its remote location. Your donation goes a long way to cover our overheads and operational costs, all food for your trip, watertaxi and other expenses. trip. We also use these donations to cover our yearly administration costs.

What do I need to bring?

A recommended gear list will be provided before your trip. A day pack is recommended for the day on Coal Island and any other short walks. The weather in Preservation Inlet can change quickly at any time of the year so it is essential you have suitable wet weather gear(waterproof and windproof) and thermals.

Any equipment and gear required for the servicing of traps etc will be provided.

Is there mobile phone coverage?

No! The only regular communication with the outside world from Preservation Inlet is via maritime radio. There is no mobile phone coverage. While working you will be provided with a VHF radio to enable you to communicate with trip members and the Southern Winds. EPIRB(emergency position-indication radiobeacon) and/or an emergency locator beacon will also be provided.

Will I be clearing traps on my own?

No. Usually you’ll be paired with at least one other trip member. Groups are paired depending on experience and local knowledge

Is there any reading material I can access beforehand?

The Southern Winds has a small library of books about the area you will be visiting – there is a lot of history in Preservation Inlet. Early Maori lived there in pre-European times and the Inlet was the site of several gold mining ventures in the late 1800s. Recommended reading includes:

  • Port Preservation –AC & NC Begg (out of print but available at some libraries)
  • Fiordland Explored – John Hall-Jones
  • New Zealand’s Fiord Heritage –Neville Peat (published by DOC)

What experience do I need?

Preservation Inlet is in one of the most remote regions of mainland New Zealand. While the tracks on Coal Island are well marked and the terrain is relatively easy-going, the trust can only accept volunteers who are experienced trampers and are appropriately equipped. Volunteers should be able to tramp at a comfortable pace for six to eight hours over undulating terrain. It is also preferred that you have previous experience with trap re-setting although full guidance is provided to all participants.