kayaks@okarito.co.nz +64 3 753 4014
GorseBusters in Ōkārito Lagoon

Community action in Ōkārito

An army of volunteers making a real difference.

GorseBusters is a volunteer conservation project in the most stunning environment in the world, South Westland – clearing invasive weeds, and having fun doing it.

Winners of the 2024 NZ Biosecurity Award for community work – come and join us for the best working holiday you’ll ever have.

GorseBusters food

GorseBusters came out of wanting to do something positive with our time in our backyard, in a difficult post-Covid year where we had little income. The aim was a small project pushing back against gradual spread of gorse and weeds around the stunning Ōkārito Lagoon, with just a few mates and some local volunteers – it got away on us a bit though; we’ve created a monster.

Four years on, and GorseBusters has become an integral part of what Okarito Kayaks does, of our identity. For a week each autumn, we effectively close the kayak business to host up to fifty volunteers from all across New Zealand – and now the world – to come and join us and our local mates in tackling gorse and any other invasive weeds we can identify and deal to around the lagoon fringe.

Locals with boats and baches; businesses; farmers; musicians and hunters from near and far, have helped house, feed and entertain everyone, more than doubling our town’s population to enjoy a fantastic, social GorseBusting week together.

We’ve now worked on some 50 km of shoreline around the lagoon edge, across the entire tidally-influenced catchment of the Ōkārito River, with some areas unrecognisable from their state before we started this, with over 1500 volunteer days contributed to protecting this incredible place.

It’s a prick of a job. But the best beach holiday you’ll ever have ….

Removing gorse Ōkārito


We’re committing to continue to organise, lead, equip, accommodate and feed volunteers for a week in autumn each year, to give something back and to keep looking after this special place that supports our business, family and community here.

We’re not just putting our hand out for someone to pay us to do this; this is just going back to the good, old-fashioned, we’re-all-in-this-together Kiwi working bee.

GorseBusters volunteers 2022


If you’re keen on getting involved or supporting this mahi in some way, get in touch. We’re happily accepting small donations to help pay for the food, tools, and equipment for our volunteers to make this project work – GorseBusters is now a Registered Charitable Trust and has a dedicated bank account at 12-3493-0041428-00; we can send you a receipt for any help you can send. All funds are spent on supplies; no-one gets paid for any time they spend in this endeavour, including ourselves. Many hands make light work. We’d especially love to hear from you if you have, or know of, a business that would be keen to donate or lend goods that would be useful or keep volunteers fed during the week.

If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty and being out in this incredible landscape for a couple of days together as a minimum, or want to help out in any way, we’d love to hear from you. You don’t necessarily need a great deal of experience, but a good attitude and sense of humour is a must; if you have any of your own tools, waders or gummies, or expertise that could help, we’d really love to know.

There’s a simple form below for anyone interested.

Should be a great week; Monday 31st March to Saturday 5th April 2025 inclusive.

Keen? Come and get stuck in…

Cutting gorse


Please use the form below to register your interest, alternatively you can call us on 03 753 4014 or you can email us at gorsebusters@okarito.co.nz

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Seven Sharp – GorseBusters

Ōkārito is a small West Coast town looking a halt a gorse invasion - but it takes an army.>
From RNZ Nine To Noon, 27 April 2022

RNZ Nine to Noon – Volunteers ghosting an invasive weed in Okarito

Gorse is on the march at Ōkārito Lagoon. It’s threatening biodiversity; choking native wetland plants, bird habitat and inhibiting whitebait breeding...
From Newsroom, 10th April 2022

Newsroom GorseBusters of Ōkārito Lagoon

The phenomenal work ethic of a volunteer army has the gorse scourge at a West Coast beauty spot in retreat
From RNZ Country Life, 8 July 2022

RNZ Country Life – GorseBusters

This April, volunteers from all over Aotearoa headed to South Westland to clear gorse from the shores of the stunning Ōkārito Lagoon.


Ōkārito is a small, peaceful village on the western sea coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Only 10km off the main highway, Ōkārito is about 25-minutes drive north of Franz Josef Glacier. Look for the signposted turn-off between Lake Mapourika and Lake Wahapo.

You’ll find spacious, private car parking at our two red sheds on the left just as you enter the village, with a homely base building and bathrooms for comfort.

1, The Strand, Ōkārito, West Coast
kayaks@okarito.co.nz +64 3 753 4014 Get directions

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