Jobs at DOC: Community Relations Ranger, Vonny Sprey

Department of Conservation —  05/12/2011

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 Wanaka Community Relations Ranger, Vonny Sprey

Vonny building a boardway across Enderby

At work…

Name: Vonny Sprey

Position: Ranger, Community Relations, Wanaka Area Office

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Mainly concessionaire related activities but I also work on Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 (CPLA) and Resource Management Act (RMA) issues.

What is the best part about your job?

Any opportunity to get out and into the amazing place we live in. 

I enjoy surveying and monitoring because it’s always good to observe and receive feedback from those using the parks, tracks and huts. I also like being part of a team; building fences, checking trap lines, planting trees—it’s especially good to know you are making a difference to conserving our islands.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Routeburn Track

Being in the office when the mountains, bush and lakes are beckoning (it’s true, I can see the beckoning fingers from the window).

What led you to your role in DOC?

A convoluted journey, including being a city kid with a love of being in the country, several formative years at Massey University, and a career in farming and farm consulting interspersed with the time outs on OEs and answering cycling and long distance Ironman challenges—which did start a change of perspectives.

Many of my farming clients did (and do, admittedly) wonder why I “went over to the dark side”. But I am enjoying seeing the changes taking place in both the farming and conservation worlds particularly in the perceptions that some have of each other (the ‘polluters’ vs. the ‘tree huggers’).

What was the highlight of your month just gone?

Cass Valley, Tekapo

Being given a summer position as hut warden for three months at Siberia hut in Mount Aspiring National Park—once they rebuilt it after it was burnt to the ground earlier this year! 

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Watching the sunrise in a remote valley, mountain top or beach, knowing that it will be a glorious day and that there is no where else I would rather be.
  2. A mountain lodge, warm crackling fire, good company, nice wine and to cap it off—watching snow flakes coming down outside with excellent prospects of waking up to a blue bird day. 
  3. The anticipation of a new adventure, the companionship along the way, and the accomplishment of a challenge.

Three pet peeves

The Remarkables

  1. The bullies in our midst.
  2. People who believe that an ‘organic’ label automatically and conclusively makes it a better product. From a farming perspective there are good farms and bad farms regardless of whether they are or are not organic. As a farm consultant I have seen some awful welfare on environmentally disasterous ‘organic’ farms, and some terrific animal and eco friendly traditional farms (and likewise the products they sell). 
  3. People who have too many peeves (no one really wants to know).

Three things always in your fridge

A moot point—I would settle for coldness at present, then I could actually use it.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

Places that will remain forever in the memory bank: Enderby Island, Kapiti Island, and the diving world around the Poor Knights Islands—and lots of others!

Enderby entry

Favourite movie, album, book

The next good movie, song and book—it’s a moving feast.

Deep and meaningful…

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

“Live your dreams, make them happen”—but knowing my 18 year old self, I would probably save my breath and not say anything at all.

Who or what inspires you and why?

Bonar Glacier crevasse

People with inner calm, strength and purpose like Ghandhi, the Dali Lhama, Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela. They inspire me to try to be a better person.

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

It’s a toss up between a cowboy and an action hero.

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

In my dreams? Diving and researching with Jacques Cousteau et al, or filming nature’s marvels with Attenborough, or looking to experience and explore other places I have long yearned to go to such as Antartica. 

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

A Haast Eagle. Why? Because no one would eat me during the day. I would have to go back in time and see what New Zealand looked like prior to the arrival of humans.

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

Good planets are hard to find—don’t blow this one.