Jobs at DOC: Negotiations Policy Advisor, Amber Duncalfe

Department of Conservation —  11/05/2012

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 Amber Duncalfe, Negotiations Policy Advisor/Kaiwhakatakoto Kaupapa, National Office.

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I’m happy because this is the first day of the tramp and I had a shower this morning – Routeburn Track, 2010

I provide policy advice to assist the Department in its role in Treaty of Waitangi settlement negotiations, and more generally to support positive relationships with iwi/Māori.

Policy is a set of decisions about what to do on a given issue, so policy advice is just work that helps people identify what the issues are, analyse risks and opportunities, set objectives, and work out what course of action is likely to help achieve those objectives. The work I do helps the Department to navigate tricky issues in this area, and to capture opportunities for positive change. Policy is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I am a complete nerd and I love it.

On a day to day basis, my job involves a lot of research, writing, discussion and lots and lots and lots of thinking about different Treaty and settlement-related issues.

What is the best part about your job?

I get to learn, think, and write about some of the most interesting and important things happening in New Zealand right now. Treaty settlements are helping to build a strong and positive future for our country and I think we should be proud to be playing a part in that process.

With my Mum on the Routeburn Track. The thought of five days of dehydrated food made us seriously consider jumping.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Sitting at a desk most of the day is really hard. Treaty settlements are difficult, but important and worthwhile. Sometimes my brain hurts.  

What led you to your role in DOC?

I always wanted to work for DOC. I’m very interested in environmental policy and I just follow what interests me. I did a Masters of Environmental Studies in 2005, then worked for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and Te Puni Kōkiri as a policy advisor on natural resource policy issues, before starting with DOC in 2009.

Annual Duncalfe family tramp 2011: The Duncalfes take on the Milford Track

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Getting confirmation that I’m doing Pukenga Atawhai (a training programme covering the skills needed to build and maintain effective relationships with tangata whenua) in June.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My family
  2. A good soy flat white
  3. My friends

Three pet peeves

  1. Overripe feijoas (so disappointing)
  2. Retail shopping (The lighting! The piped music! The inane small talk! Being given unsolicited fashion advice by 19 year olds! GAH!)
  3. People who write letters to the editor saying that New Zealand is becoming a third world country (I would like to drop these people in the middle of Angola with $10 in their pocket and a great opportunity to develop some perspective)

    Working at an orphanage in Benin, West Africa, 2011

Three foods

  1. Coffee
  2. Barbecued halloumi
  3. Spicy Asian dishes of any kind

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Newtown, Wellington
  2. My parents’ house in Auckland (my tūrangawaewae)
  3. Aōtea/Great Barrier Island
  4. Fiordland (OK, that is four, but this question was hard)

Scenery was spectacular, the food not so much: lunchtime on the Milford Track

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Book: The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique-Bauby
  2. Album: High Violet by The National
  3. Movie: Favourite movie is too hard

Deep and meaningful…

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

Dad overseeing an advanced tramping manoeuvre: Matemateaonga Track, 2012

I would start with ‘don’t wear petticoats over pants’, also ‘don’t move out of home yet, you’ll regret it when you’re 33 and still flatting’, moving on to ‘stop borrowing so much student loan’, then ‘take geography as well as history’, ‘study languages’, and finally ‘set your sights higher’. But the petticoat thing is the most important!

Who or what inspires you and why?

My friends and family because they are totally amazing, the people and landscapes of Aotearoa/New Zealand because they are beautiful, and travelling because the world is a vast, fascinating and wonderful place. And old people who are full of life and doing great things as this gives me lots to look forward to.

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

An acrobat, a ventriloquist, or one of Paula Abdul’s backup dancers.

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

I still want to be one of Paula Abdul’s backup dancers, but back in the 80s when she was cool.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Eat less meat. You and the planet will be much healthier!

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

One of my New Year’s resolutions this year was to be less materialistic. I have to say it’s mostly going quite well, except that I have a major weakness for great dresses that I can’t seem to curb.

Aotea/Great Barrier Island AKA “Heaven”

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

A godwit, so I could travel and fly.

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

Conservation is essential to what makes New Zealand great, so let’s not get complacent about it. Also, we have great opportunities to make conservation even more special by working with tangata whenua, but we need to be open minded and flexible in order to make that happen. Also, don’t go overseas if you haven’t seen Fiordland yet—it’s New Zealand’s Taj Mahal!