A volunteer sets a trap.
Image: DOC


Applications have now closed for the 2022/23 summer season.

Applications have now closed for the 22/23 summer season.

We're looking for suitably experienced volunteers to work with DOC rangers on tasks such as trapping, monitoring and weed control.

“I loved being able to get out into the wilderness of Nelson Lakes, and experience the off track backcountry where the public don’t go. The scenery and wildlife was so special to be amongst and the knowledge that you are helping makes it even better. I also loved getting to know the amazing team at St Arnaud who took the experience to a whole new level by being so welcoming and supportive”.  Izzy Backhouse (Christchurch) November 2018


The following dates are available:

  • 25 October – 18 November 2022
  • 21 November – 16 December 2022
  • 9 January – 3 February 2023
  • 7 February – 3 March 2023
  • 6 – 31 March 2023


Preference is given to those who are studying in the field of ecological science, or who have undertaken other species and trapping work. Ideally, we are looking for a four-week commitment so you can build up a good range of skills and have a meaningful experience.

Students and internships

Unfortunately, our staff are not able to support internships or monitoring practical work for academic programmes (particularly for universities outside New Zealand).


The Nelson Lakes biodiversity team is based out of St Arnaud and carries out fauna and flora work across a range of conservation land. Fauna work involves pest control and native species monitoring with most work centred around the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project.

This mainland island site at Lake Rotoiti tests pest management techniques and much of your work as a volunteer will be in this project.

Flora work involves weed control across the district in a variety of habitat types as well as native flora monitoring. As a volunteer, you will gain experience in both fauna and flora work as well as contributing to conservation in the Nelson Lakes District.

Wasp warning

Wasps are very prevalent in the Nelson Lakes area in the summer; so wasp stings are a real possibility for anyone around the village or walking in the bush.

Keep this in mind when applying for this opportunity, and note that St Arnaud is over an hour from the nearest medical assistance. 


The work is varied and could include:

  • predator trapping (for stoats and possums)
  • monitoring of trapping effort (tracking tunnels)
  • native species monitoring (kea, kiwi, bats)
  • helping in one of the largest wasp control operations in the world
  • monitoring native flora
  • weed control

Most work is undertaken during regular working hours although overnight trips outside the RNRP are possible.

The work involves working with rangers and alone, handling dead animals and putting toxins into bait stations.

See Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project for detail on some of the work that you might be involved in.

“ What I liked most was the sense of working in a team, I felt really included and valued. Also the variety of work meant I was always stimulated and never bored! The scenery was pretty unreal as well.” Finbar Grealish (Wellington), Nelson Lakes Volunteer Bio Ranger March 2019

What to expect

Fitness and skills required: Volunteers must have a high level of fitness and well-developed backcountry tramping skills.

Experience required: You need to be experienced and comfortable:

  • navigating in the bush
  • being off formed tracks
  • using a map and compass
  • have completed multi-day trips in the backcountry or have done similar work.

You will be required to work for short periods of time unsupervised so you must be confident in the bush unaccompanied.

Accommodation: Shared bach-type accommodation is provided free in St Arnaud for the duration of the volunteer period. You supply your own food and transport to St Arnaud.

What to bring

Tramping boots, warm tramping clothing including wet weather gear, personal overnight gear for accommodation (including sleeping bag, pillow).

A full gear list is supplied with an information pack on acceptance. All safety equipment and any transport required for the job are supplied.

How to apply

Applications have now closed for the 22/23 summer season. 


If you have specific questions, contact:

Volunteer coordinator


Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 521 1806
Email:   nelsonlakesvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   View Road
St Arnaud
Postal Address:   PO Box 55
St Arnaud 7053
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