Jobs at DOC: Operation Rena

Department of Conservation —  07/11/2011

Every Monday Jobs at DOC takes 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 meet some of the people working on Operation Rena in Tauranga  

At work…

“Would you like bubbles with your bath?” Penguin cleaning, a part of the de-oiling process

Name: DOC staff involved with Operation Rena

What kind of things do you do in your role?

DOC is providing operational support for the Massey University led National Oiled Wildlife Response Team on behalf of Maritime New Zealand. To cut a long story short, DOC staff are contributing to the following:

Crew Leaders, Sector Supervisors, Skippers’ Safety, Division Commanders, Iwi Liaison, Radio Operators, Wildlife Handlers, Information, Finance, Personnel, Operations, Logistics, GIS/Mapping, Night Operations, Admin Support, the Situation Unit, and the Resources Unit.

What is the best part about contributing to Operation Rena?

People have come from across the planet to help out. They come from a variety of backgrounds, organisations, businesses and agencies to assist in the efforts of the operation. There is an incredible commitment by these people to get the job done—and to meet the objectives of the operation with a huge amount of collaboration and a real lack of egos getting in the way.

What is the hardest part about Operation Rena?

The Minister of Conservation keeping an eye on proceedings at the Oiled Wildlife Recovery Centre at Te Maunga, Tauranga

A number of the staff are spending time away from home and family.

The unpredictability of a boat precariously grounded on a reef in changeable weather is also hard!

What led you to your involvement with Operation Rena?

DOC’s Deputy Director-General of Operations, Sue Tucker, asked and, as keen and willing DOC staff members, we have all happily put our hands up to help out when and where required.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

To date, we have managed to cover 60–80km of coastline per day since the grounding. This has enabled us to recover 402 wildlife members, including little blue penguins, gannets, shags, shearwater and seals. A part of that number was 60 nationally vulnerable New Zealand Dotterels before the spill! All of this was undertaken while keeping our cool, with a high team morale. Phew!

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Clean seas
  2. Clean beaches
  3. Clean birds

Three pet peeves

  1. Grounded boats
  2. Leaking oil
  3. Missing shipping containers

Three things always in your fridge

  1. Milk for the coffee to start the day off
  2. Sardines for the birds
  3. Beer for winding down after a long day

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Tuhua (Mayor) Island—An awesome volcanic environment that is pest free and home to numerous indigenous species with an amazing marine reserve. 
  2. Maketu— the landing site for the Te Arawa canoe and a nesting area for estuarine species including our New Zealand Dotterels.
  3. Motuotau (Rabbit) Island—Penguins galore!

We also used to quite like Astrolabe Reef for its amazing sea life with great diving and fishing, but we’re a little indifferent to it right now!

Loading the DOC boat for Tuhua (Mayor) Island

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Movie: Free Willy. We’re not a big fan of movies like Titanic or Poseidon at the moment!
  2. Album: Time and Tide by Split Enz, especially the song Six months in a leaky boat.
  3. Book: We’re often found perusing Rena Operation Astrolabe Incident Action Plans for a  bit of light reading at the moment, and have been considering finding a copy of Out of the Channel: The Exxon Valdez Oil Spill in Prince William Sound, but don’t really have the time right now.

Deep and meaningful…

What keeps you motivated and why?

Seeing the huge community effort that has gone on over the last few weeks in response to this disaster. There are an incredible number of small but important jobs that need to be done for an operation like this to keep moving. Often these jobs are picked up by volunteers—anything from sifting sand at local beaches and picking out tiny pieces of oiled sand, to cleaning mucky pens at the wildlife centre after the de-oiling of the birds.

Wildlife Incident Management team in action at the Incident Control Centre in Tauranga

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

Working back in my day job at DOC, tirelessly making New Zealand the greatest living space on Earth.

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

“Kia ora whanau” Iwi Liaison Taute Taiepa making the calls and loving it!

A massive pod of Maui or Hector’s dolphins. We’d go back in time by about 4-5 weeks and be patrolling off the Bay of Plenty coast. There would be so many of us that if a large container ship came past we could nudge it out of the way of any obstacles and escort it safely into port!What piece of advice or message would you want to give to others when it comes to Operation Rena?

A huge thank you to all those that have helped on the operation to date. The support from people who have ‘downed tools’ from all over the country to come and help has been amazing.

To those that haven’t come—we still need your help! This thing isn’t going away in a hurry and it will only continue to function with the support of you all.

For all the best and current info on the situation check out the Maritime New Zealand website.