Kiwis for kiwi spotlight: Michelle Impey – Executive Director

Department of Conservation —  11/10/2013

To celebrate Save Kiwi Week which kicks off next Monday we profile Michelle Impey, Executive Director at Kiwis for kiwi.

At work

Michelle Impey holding a rowi kiwi.

Holding a rowi kiwi

Some things I do in my job include… Kiwis for kiwi is a small two-person team so my role is pretty broad! I am mostly office-bound and my job description includes everything from working with the Trustees to set/deliver the strategic direction for the Trust, managing relationships with stakeholders, fundraising strategy and execution, marketing and fronting media etc.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by…keeping one of its partnerships ticking along.

The best bit about my job is… I have two favourite bits. I have a saying I like to use: “No one is saving kiwi to get rich”. There are some amazing people around New Zealand who are working hard to protect kiwi, and often with a huge contribution of their own time and money. They are salt-of-the-earth people and it’s really awesome to work alongside them.

And, in a best-of-both-worlds scenario, I feel really fortunate that I get to use my business skills and background but with a way more gratifying outcome than I would have in the corporate world – which is usually about selling more product and/or increasing return to shareholders. In this role, if I do a good job, there is more money for kiwi conservation work and that is hugely rewarding.

The funniest/strangest/loveliest/scariest/awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is… I’ve been in this role eight years so there have been lots of funny, strange, lovely and scary moments, but probably one of my stand-out awesome memories is of a day in Fiordland a few years ago, where I got taken out on a ‘kiwi hunt’ with the DOC team to find a tokoeka that needed a transmitter change. It was a nine-hour day to find and capture that one bird but what an amazing day in the bush! It highlights how hard the work can be, but also how enormously gratifying and rewarding it is.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… I have to pick a collection or group rather than singling out one amazing person, and that is the Kiwi Recovery Group. It is led by DOC but is comprised of both DOC and non-DOC people with broad ranging kiwi knowledge and experience that spans decades. I am really privileged to sit on this group because of my role with the Trust, and am constantly amazed at the breadth of knowledge the group possesses and the thoughtful advice that is given out on kiwi issues around the country.

Michelle tramping in the Kaimanawa Ranges.

I love Auckland, but love to get out of it too! Here’s me on a tramping trip in the Kaimanawa Ranges

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I… don’t work for DOC, don’t work for BNZ, and prior to this role had not worked in a conservation-related field.

The song that always cheers me up is… um, anything that isn’t country and western, but I have a few faves in the music library at the moment. Can’t usually go wrong with Foo Fighters or Jack Johnson, depending on the mood.

My stomping ground is… the Waitakere Ranges in Auckland. Only a 20 minute drive and you’ve got miles and miles of amazing bush trails for running.

My best ever holiday was… my first trip ever to a completely different country (I’m from Canada) – Thailand. There is something very cool about all of those travel ‘firsts’ – eating who-knows-what from road-side stalls, not speaking the language, discovering new foods, new culture, new landscapes etc.

My greatest sporting moment was when… I crossed the finish line at Ironman Canada for the first time.  It wasn’t a podium finish (by a very long shot) but by far the toughest sporting event I have done to date.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be… any one of them that live on a predator-free offshore island. That’d be the sweet life….

If I wasn’t working at Kiwis for kiwi, I’d like to…be a philanthropist.

Holding a kakapo on Codfish Island.

Life isn’t completely kiwi. It was awesome to do a volunteer stint with the kakapo team on Codfish Island

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “I was sad I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet”. I don’t know where it originated but it is such a good perspective check for when you think things aren’t going so well.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… when you don’t know what to do, do something.

In work and life I am motivated by… happiness. I like to do what makes me happy. It’s simple (and it’s hedonistic), but it works.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… every little bit really can make a difference.

Michelle skiing in Canada.

Life before New Zealand – in an equally beautiful part of the world – Canada