Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).
Today we profile Deputy Director-General Business Services Group, Grant Baker.
Name: Grant Baker.
Position:Deputy Director-General, Business Services Group (BSG).
What kind of things do you do in your role?
I provide leadership and guidance to my managers to ensure that BSG provides the high level of support and service required for DOC to meet its obligations. This includes ensuring we have the funding to continue to balance our budgets now and in the future and that all our systems operate and are supported so that staff can do their work.
What is the best part about your job?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata; you, our people, are extremely good at what you do. And visiting people and places across DOC, which is a key part of my job.
What is the hardest part about your job?
Going into bat for conservation with central agencies and convincing them of the benefit that conservation makes to the economy and to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
What led you to your role in DOC?
My first career was in broadcasting engineering as a radio technician at 2ZW Wanganui, and then into management at an early age in Radio and Television engineering. In the late 1990s, after 27 years in broadcasting, it was time to try something new, and the opportunity arose to join DOC as one of the three Regional General Managers as part of the re-structuring of DOC post Cave Creek. One could say I haven’t looked back since.
What was your highlight from the month just gone?
It’s always great to get to the end of another (financial) year, have the new Statement of Intent signed off by Cabinet and in place, know that we have come in within last year’s budget, have balanced the budget for the years ahead, and have delivered on all of our work in the year just completed.
The rule of three…
- Family. I’m married to Margaret, with four sons and four grandchildren around the world.
- Playing cricket and golf. I’ve played cricket in most of the playing continents of the world—New Zealand, Australia, Africa, North America, South America, Great Britain, West Indies and Sri Lanka (and as a result, have also played golf in those places).
- Travel—to spectacular places around the world, whether it’s for visiting family, going to international vintage cricket tournaments or just sheer enjoyment.
Three pet peeves
- Having nothing to do—I can’t just sit down and do nothing.
- People who litter.
- People who are inconsiderate of others.
- Whitebait fritters and oysters.
- Any hot meat and three veg.
- Apple pie and ice cream.
Three favourite places in New Zealand
In DOC you get to travel to some amazing places which makes this question hard to answer.
So, in my case these are three spectacular places I have been privileged to visit with DOC rather than spectacular golf holes or cricket grounds… and it still means I have to leave out many amazing places…..
- White Island—what an amazing landscape, very active volcanic area, and hard to image how tough life would have been living and working out there.
- Anchor Island/Dusky Sound—on a clear night the sky is teeming with stars and with no interference the scene is brilliant. No wonder Captain Cook came back twice to star gaze.
- Tane Mahuta—there is something about standing in front of a kauri that has been growing for over a thousand years and still survives. Gives you that feeling of eternal life.
Favourite movie, album, book
- Movie: The Life of Brian or any of the Monty Python movies, they are all a great laugh….
- Album: The Beatles – White Album – their ninth album and the first one under the Apple Label.
- Book: The 39 Steps – John Buchan. One of the early thrillers.
Deep and meaningful…
What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?
You only live once, make the most of your life and enjoy every step of the journey.
Who or what inspires you and why?
In my youth I was inspired by Murray Halberg, a person who quietly went about his business of running and inspired many with his Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medals and world records. He was New Zealand’s first sub four minute miler and in later life he set up the Halberg Trust which supports children with disabilities.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I left school not really knowing what I wanted to be… and just started work. The career advice from college was along the lines of accountancy or maybe being a secret agent. Hence radio seemed a better idea.
And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?
A professional golfer, but of course a good one that doesn’t get the putting yips…
What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?
Having just built a sustainable home and getting both the health and cost benefits, I’m even more convinced that anyone building a new home must include sustainable features—the benefits are so good that its a no brainer. But New Zealanders get trapped by not wanting to spend the very small amount extra at the start and as a result miss out.
Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?
To ensure that everyone understands that what goes down the gutter, at home or in the street, flows into our streams and harbours.
If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?
There’s plenty to choose from, maybe a weta or a New Zealand Falcon. But I’ve selected the tuatara; they, like me, have been around a long time, in theory with strong knowledge and experience—survivors.
What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?
New Zealand’s economy relies on conservation in its many guises; all of us have a part to play to ensure that our living space is kept in the best possible condition for our grandchildren.