Jobs at DOC: Arthur’s Pass ranger, Tom Williams

Department of Conservation —  24/02/2012

Every Friday 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.

Today we profile Arthur’s Pass ranger, Tom Williams.

At work…

Position: Ranger, Visitor Information, Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre 

Castle Hill peak: not a bad climb from Porters Pass, with some pretty cool views!

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Working in a Visitor Centre in such a small community means that you are the first port of call for anyone wanting information—from recreational opportunities to where the public toilets are located.

Because of the size of the village you also need to be able to deal with whatever comes through the front door or over the radio. This ranges from people wanting to find accommodation, to arranging Helivacs for people injured in the bush.

What is the best part about your job?

Arriving for work in the morning and never knowing what the day has in store for you. I do everything from search and rescue and volunteer fire, to a million other small things that need to be done.

I also get satisfaction from helping people connect with the natural world and getting the most from their visit to this cool place.

Releasing rowi (formerly known as Ōkārito brown kiwi) at Ōkārito

What is the hardest part about your job?

Staying indoors while others go out and enjoy the sunshine. That, and people not listening to your advice and doing things that perhaps they shouldn’t.

What led you to your role in DOC?

I love New Zealand and being outdoors, so I guess you could say working at DOC was a natural fit.

Environmental protection and education is hugely important in addressing the issues facing New Zealand and the global community. Working in a role that I can make a positive impact has always been high on my list.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

There is always so much going on at Arthur’s Pass that this is a hard one. My highlight for the month would have to be helping out with the mountain section of the Coast to Coast and sharing war stories with the other team members. (I am a member of the Christchurch Red Cross Response Team and we are tasked with looking after the mountain section.)

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Living in Arthur’s Pass. It’s one of the best places to live in the country with an amazing community—it’s always funny going down to the pub and seeing a third of the population down there (Arthur’s Pass has a permanent population of around 35).
  2. Bikes. The feeling of freedom you get from descending down a hill with the wind at your back and the enjoyment I get every time I ride one. 
  3. Having such an amazing and beautiful country to call home.

Biking the length of the South Island – somewhere on the Rainbow Road between Hanmer Springs and St Arnuad – as part of an adventure in 2006, thanks to winning the Gore-Tex Good for Life Scholarship

Three pet peeves

  1. People saying ‘over and out’ on the radio (‘over’ means I have finished speaking and am awaiting a reply, ‘out’ means I have finished this communication).
  2. People underestimating what is required to go venturing into the great outdoors.
  3. People feeding kea.

Possibly the most famous short walk in Arthur’s Pass, Devils Punchbowl

Three foods

  1. Dark chocolate
  2. Fresh coffee
  3. Home cooking!

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Arthur’s Pass. A real kiwi National Park, understated, with huge mountains, amazing scenery and wild rivers and places.
  2. Stewart Island. Bush, beaches and literally tripping over kiwi and deer—need I say more?
  3. Christchurch. Heaps of recreational opportunities on your door step, from cycling, to skiing, and tramping. We are spoilt for choice. The rebuild plans are looking choice as well.

 Favourite movie, album, book

Movie: Good docos such as The end of the line, Foodinc etc

Album: Hard to say, possibly stuff by Dave Dobbyn, David Gray and the likes

Book: Anything by Ken Follett or Dan Brown

Deep and meaningful…

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

Life is for living, do what you want and have fun. Don’t be afraid to standout from the crowd and do what you want to do.

Temple Basin – a novel approach to working off the Christmas lunch (Christmas Day 2011)

Who or what inspires you and why?

Anyone that is passionate and cares enough about something to go out there and make a difference. I should also mention my parents for bringing me up to care about other people, the environment, and showing me that small actions can make a difference. My tutors from the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) and the sustainability guru Dave Irwin for helping me see what I want to do with my life.

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

As a kid I think I wanted to be anything from a firefighter to a chef, so I had no real direction until I reached high school and decided I wanted to do something with an environmental focus. As a ‘big kid’ I have narrowed the choices down to how people connect with the environment through urban design and planning.

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

My main interest is how people relate to the environment and how we connect with it. Any job that would allow me to work on this would be a bonus, either that or emergency management.

Going through Harper Pass as part of an 11 day environmental journey

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Ride your bike. It won’t cost you a thing, is good for you and it has been proven that trips around three kilometres in length are quicker on the bike than in the car.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?

At home: Try and wean myself off internet shopping and buying bike stuff that I don’t need.

At work: Remember to turn off the public toilet lights at night when I shut up shop.

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

Kea, they are amazing birds and incredibly intelligent. Plus, as kea and Arthur’s Pass go hand in hand, being able to hang out and terrorise this place would be pretty choice.  

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

New Zealand has some of the best natural environments on the face of this earth and this is embedded deep into what it means to be a Kiwi. However, if we don’t alter the way we live (car and resource usage) then we are putting these very environments that make us who we are at risk.

Furthermore, tourism is something like the second biggest contributor to the New Zealand economy, and continued environmental degradation would effectively kill the goose that laid the golden egg.