Jobs at DOC: Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project Team Leader, Grant Harper

Department of Conservation —  29/08/2011

Every Monday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

This week we find out about Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project Team Leader, Grant (Harpo) Harper:

At work…

Grant with kiwi

Name: Grant (Harpo) Harper

Position: Team Leader, Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project, Nelson Lakes National Park.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I manage the Rotoiti Mainland Island, which involves intensive introduced predator control in 5000ha of mountainous beech forest, native species monitoring and trialling new techniques. It’s a great combination of project management, science and field work.

What is the best part about your job? 

The team I work with.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Petty bureaucracy.

What led you to your role in DOC? 

A long and winding road. It involved Raoul Island, Little Barrier Island and Whenua Hou, kakapo, more university study, and DOC’s Southland Conservancy office. My partner and I always wanted to live in St Arnaud, after spending a lot of time here in the 1980s and, when the job came up while returning from the Galapagos Islands, we jumped at it.

What was your highlight from the month just gone? 

I just got back from a three month stint on Macquarie Island, in a mixed Aussie and New Zealand team eradicating rodents and rabbits.

A Macquarie Island local

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My family
  2. Islay single-malt whisky
  3. Wilderness

The kids take dad for a walk

3 pet peeves

  1. Cars that follow too closely
  2. Wasting power—be it light or heat
  3. People who can’t figure out the difference between recycling bins and rubbish bins

Three things always in your fridge

  1. Full cream milk
  2. Cheese
  3. Eggs

(We’ve got kids and chooks!)

Three favourite places in New Zealand

Choices, choices; probably the subantarctic islands, Fiordland and Whenua Hou/Codfish Island. Stewart Island is right up there as well.

Another awful day at Nelson Lakes

Favourite movie, album, and book

  1. Movie: Out of Africa—it’s got to be seen on the big screen; all those wide open spaces, wildlife and romance, what a combination.
  2. Album: Depends on the situation, but probably U2’s Joshua Tree.
  3. Book: Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. Natural history in prose. Sublime.

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Grab every opportunity that comes your way.

Grant with Felix the kakapo on Pearl Island

Who or what inspires you and why?

People who strive to make the world a better place for our kids—self evident really.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Either a Park Ranger or a high country farmer.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

A field scientist on an island somewhere, or involved in an island eradication.

Scientific sampling on Auckland Island

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

A dusky dolphin—they always look as though they’re having a great time, and what acrobats!

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Despite the gains we’ve made with some native species, overall we’re still going backwards.