07 December 2006
by Tim Burns
Wellington, New Zealand:
Kiwi volunteers are contributing their time at a conservative value of about $2.5 billion a year, according to Alison Marshall, Chairperson of Volunteering New Zealand.
Marking International Volunteer Day on Tuesday, 5 December, Ms Marshall said there were more than one million New Zealanders volunteering in many different ways throughout the country.
“Measuring the true value of how much they contribute is a major challenge because of the lack of good data but research over the past few years is now starting to show just how much volunteers are doing and the value of their contribution.
“The Time Use Survey undertaken by Statistics NZ in 1999 has been one major source of information,” said Ms Marshall. “This study measured the time spent on every activity and calculated that 260 million hours per year was in formal unpaid work or volunteering. The dollar value of this time was very conservatively valued by Statistics NZ as $2.493 billion”.
Volunteers are involved in every sector of New Zealand society – health and welfare services, emergency services, churches and faith groups, sports and recreation, education, community support, arts and culture, the environment and advocacy and activism.
If the volunteers were not there, many key services and activities would just come to a stop said Ms Marshall.
“Imagine what would happen to rural fire services if there were no volunteer fire fighters,” she said. “And if the 70,000 volunteer coaches stopped coaching, the volunteer referees and umpires did not officiate, very little sport would take place.”
There are many vulnerable older people who require the support of volunteers including the Meals on Wheels teams, the accredited visitor services and others.
“These are just a very few examples of the way in which volunteer services impact on our lives showing why it is important to have a special day to show our appreciation for all that volunteers do,” said Ms Marshall.
“Community organisations from all over New Zealand will be celebrating the day and thanking their volunteers in many different ways – award ceremonies, appreciation letters and certificates, displays of their volunteers activities, parties and picnics and so on.”
One group from Maungaturoto, Northland, will spend the day preparing a Christmas Dinner that will be enjoyed by the elderly of their community the following day. “Voluntary work will be their way of celebrating International Volunteer Day,” said Ms Marshall.