Jobs at DOC: DOC Visitor Centre Ranger, Robert Hawke

Department of Conservation —  30/03/2012

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 Robert Hawke, Ranger – DOC Visitor Centre, Wellington.

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

As a Visitor Centre we get a whole raft of enquiries, not all relating to DOC. Mostly it’s about helping people plan outdoor recreation activities which suit their abilities and expectations. I also have a thriving retail section focusing on conservation themed products.

With a friendly kaka on Kapiti Island

What is the best part about your job?

Contacting DOC staff all around the country to get information for some of the more obscure questions we get asked. They are invariably very helpful and friendly.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Telling people things that they don’t want to hear—‘the weather is really bad, you won’t be able to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing this week’, or ‘Kapiti Island/the Milford Track etc.— it’s fully booked’.

Field testing insect repellent - Milford Track

What led you to your role in DOC?

I’ve come full circle really. I left school and joined the New Zealand Forest Service (NZFS) and then did a four year Ranger Trainee course (including a stint of native logging on the West Coast!). Many years and career changes later I decided to get back to my first love, so looked for a job with DOC.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

A couple of nights doing Hut Warden duty at the flash new Turere Lodge in the Rimutaka Forest Park. A school had the hut fully booked both nights and it was great to see the kids enjoying the bush experience—for many of them, their first time.

The rule of three… 

Three loves

  1. Arriving at a backcountry hut after a hard day’s tramp and finding a spare bunk.
  2. Living on the Kapiti Coast—the climate, the beaches, and an easy commute to Wellington when the city calls.
  3. People—but not all of the people all of the time!

Mid-Caples Hut, Caples Valley

Three pet peeves

  1. Passengers on public transport who put a bag etc. on the empty seat next to them and then pointedly ignore everyone.
  2. Trampers who leave empty bottles, empty gas canisters, and other rubbish including leftover food in backcountry huts.
  3. People talking loudly on cell phones.

Three foods

  1. Homemade bread
  2. Ice cream
  3. Steak (med-rare), chips, salad, and a creamy mushroom sauce with a nice glass of red wine

Volunteer kiwi monitoring in Te Urewera Mainland Island

Three favourite places in New Zealand

There are too many to choose from but Pureora Forest, Nelson Lakes, and Lake Sumner/Lewis Pass will do for starters.

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie: TT – Closer to the Edge. A stunning and scary doco on the 2010 Isle of Man motorbike races (and you don’t have to know anything about motorbikes!).
  • Album: The Eagles, Hotel California—Joe Walsh’s guitar solo gets me every time.
  • Book: Catch-22—the futility of war and the stupidity of bureaucracy.

Deep and meaningful…

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

Do the hard yards—it’ll pay off in the end.

Volunteering on Codfish Island with Sirocco

Who or what inspires you and why?

People who see injustice and do something about it.

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

I didn’t really think about it until I joined the NZFS and realised that I loved working in the outdoors.

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

Richard Attenborough’s job would be pretty good.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Reduce, re-use, recycle.

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

Stop taking the car to the station every morning. As I’m semi-retiring at Easter, this shouldn’t be a problem.

A friendly kaka says hello

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

Riroriro/grey warbler—it must be a very happy bird to sing so beautifully.

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

We’re all in this together.

4 responses to Jobs at DOC: DOC Visitor Centre Ranger, Robert Hawke

    Stephen Parr 05/04/2012 at 4:18 pm

    Enjoy your free time back in the bush. I look forward to meeting you in some remote track or hut. Good luck from one of your former co Ranger Trainees. Stephen P


    Excellent, semi retirement, now you’ll have plenty of time to come kiwi tracking Robert! , after Easter :). Best regards Melody


    Best wishes (from a former co-worker) to Robert on his future adventures. I miss seeing your smiling face and hearing your clever observations down in the VC.


    Enjoy your semi retirement. From my experience, you’ll be even busier than you are now!