Jamie Quirk (DOC) talking to a group at a Parafed Event
Image: Charles Barrie | ©


Today, a new free guide to help improve well-being by connecting with nature for therapy is available in Tairāwhiti Gisborne.

Date:  13 December 2023

DOC, well-being sector partners, and iwi collaborated to create Ways to Wellness: He Ara Taiao ki te Ora Tairāwhiti.  

DOC Tairāwhiti Operations Manager Matt Tong says the guide has a nature therapy focus, encouraging people to spend time in nature for their mental and physical well-being, healing, and recovery. 

“We’re thrilled to release the guide in time for the summer as the days get longer and the whenua is drying out, giving people more opportunity to explore our beautiful region and connect with te taiao (nature),” says Matt.

“Similar to how a doctor recommends physical activity as a therapy for many conditions, this guide suggests nature as therapy. Not only are there the many benefits of physical activity while connecting with te taiao, there is also evidence of the positive impact on mental wellbeing, recovery time, and other factors in our overall well-being.” 

The guide features five short walks close to the city, as well as information on where to loan a ViMo (all-terrain wheelchair) for free, how to get involved in volunteering, and nature-focused activities for families. For those wanting to go on their own wairua (spiritual) journey, ideas for how to get started are also in the guide.

Sports Gisborne Tairāwhiti, Ngā Manu Taupua Manager Kelly Nelson says getting outdoors supports overall well-being in many ways. 

“Not only are our local walking tracks a place for movement, but they are also great spaces to connect with te taiao for play and taking a break from our busy lives.”

Tairāwhiti Community Voice Co-ordinator Tracy Bacon, representing social services, is pleased to hear of the great incentive in our region.

“With cost a barrier to many, this allows all to participate. We will utilise this as part of the support to our community, enhancing the wellness of many.”

With summer approaching, people can start their ways to wellness journey by picking up or downloading a copy of the guide. 

The guide will be distributed by doctors, mental health advocates, disability sector staff, and partner organisations. It is also available from the Department of Conservation, Tairawhiti Environment Centre, Sports Gisborne Tairawhiti, Gisborne Volunteer Centre, and online at www.doc.govt.nz.

Ways to Wellness: He Ara Taiao ki te Ora Tairāwhiti (PDF, 3,165K)

Background information 

Ways to Wellness Tairawhiti: He Te AraTaiao ki te Ora Tairawhiti was originally developed using the ‘Healthy Nature Healthy People’ programme, which ran in DOC from 2015 until 2021. It encouraged New Zealanders to connect with nature to improve their health and wellbeing.

The guide was made possible due to a network of representatives from the Tairāwhiti health, environment, recreation, volunteering, disability, iwi and community development sectors. It now includes Sports Gisborne Tairāwhiti, Parafed Tairāwhiti, Strive Rehab and others. Supported by tangata whenua health providers, medical professionals, and Project Co-ordinators Sandra Groves (First Chapter) and Charles Barrie (Taiao Huru Huri).

The guide follows the Mental Health Foundation Five Ways to Well-being: Connect, Take Notice, Be Active, Give, Keep Learning. 

ViMo means vitality in motion. It’s a multi-function, all-terrain, lightweight collapsible recreational wheelchair. It would benefit the disabled, elderly people, or those who are experiencing injury and illness, including whanau with limited mobility. ViMo chairs don’t move by themselves - you will need someone to push them. The ViMo chairs can tackle many of the walking tracks and green spaces, but they are not good on steps.  


For media enquiries contact:

Email: media@doc.govt.nz

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