We've got Northland covered June 2015

Community and voluntary services Minister Jo Goodhew, Volunteering Northland manager Bart van der Meer, Volunteering Northland trustee Fiona Morgan, Far North Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes, Whangarei MWinston Peters and Whangarei MP Dr Shane Reti.

With statistics showing northland has the highest number of volunteers per capita in the country, Volunteering Whangarei’s job just got a lot bigger.
That is because the not for profit organisation has had a name change, now operating as Volunteering Northland.

This means they will help coordinate volunteers in all of northland, including the Far North District, which is in the top five percentages of volunteers for local authorities nationally, and the Northland electorate, which ranks as number one in voluntary work per resident.

Community and voluntary sector minister Jo Goodhew, who was at the launch at the Kamo Voluntary Fire Brigade, says the rebrand is a positive one. Northland has always had strong regional towns and cities which have a sense of pride in their history,” she says.
“It is also a region which has a very strong identity. I have no doubt volunteers consider themselves to be supporting the region as a whole.”

Volunteering Northland manager Bart van der Meer says although the move was a natural progression, it also shows the strength of volunteering in the area.
“That this is happening within two years of us starting has to do with local success and also the support from the Far North District Council,” he says.

Although the expansion will see an increased workload, the organiastion has processes in place to ensure the transition goes smoothly.
“Our website, our main point of access for non-profit organisations and volunteers, can easily be modified to handle different locations. We have experience with other ways of communication, like local papers and our stall at public events, and there are opportunities to do the same in the other districts.
“Many organisations that work with us operate in the whole of Northland or have sister organisations outside the Whangarei District.”

Van der Meer says he thinks the northland attitude plays a big part in volunteering being so popular.
“It must have to do with the approach to life where taking care of each other seems to come natural. I myself come from a crowded urban area where it is normal not to engage with neighbours.”
“In Whangarei, in town, in a store or on the beach, I often have a spontaneous friendly chat with a stranger, which of course in most cases turns out to be a local.”

“I guess this attitude results in the willingness of people to put their hand up, especially when someone asks them.”

It is asking that is the main purpose of Volunteering Northland; asking volunteer orgainsations where they require assistance, but mainly asking local people to help their local community.

Story by Jared Dennis, Photo by Blandine Chilese