Jobs at DOC: Kaja Vetter — Visitor Centre Supervisor

Department of Conservation —  08/11/2013

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 Kaja Vetter, Visitor Centre Supervisor in Queenstown.

Kaja Vetter outside Sam Summers Hut.

Outside Sam Summers Hut

At work

Some things I do in my job include… keeping my team happy, dealing with retail and rosters and budgets and providing information to visitors to the area.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision because… the more visitors enjoy their outdoor experience, the more they will value New Zealand’s natural treasures and the more they will want to protect the land!

The best bit about my job is… my tiny sunlightless office… ahh no, not really. The wonderful people I get to work with every day!

The loveliest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… back in the days when we took intentions, Visitor Centre staff spent considerable time tracking down people who hadn’t returned their intention slips. This happened every day in summer, so was nothing out of the ordinary. I finally got hold of this one particular couple on the phone and thus knew they were safe, and gave them the usual—slightly stern—spiel about their responsibilities when leaving intentions with the department. They were so mortified that the next day they appeared with a box of chocolates to apologise—how lovely is that!

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… my boss, Greg Lind. He is inspiring, forward thinking and whatever life throws at him, he stays positive. His leadership is extraordinary and I feel privileged to work for him.

Kaja Vetter and friends doing yoga on a mountain.

Hiking up a mountain to do yoga

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… Beauty Beats by Beats Antique – electronic meets world music, brilliant! And Let’s Groove by Earth Wind and Fire. Disco is made to make people happy!

My greatest sporting moment so far was when… a couple of year’s back I could finally do a yoga arm balance called Astavakrasana (which means eight angle pose in Sanskrit!). A lot of yoga teachers have the “When I can finally do this pose, I will be a REAL yoga teacher” thing going on – Astavakrasana was mine. Now I like doing it on mountain tops etc!

In my spare time I… teach yoga and dance. Wonderfully complimentary to running a Visitor Centre!

Kaja Vetter and a friend cross the river.

Crossing a river on the way to Cascade Saddle

My secret indulgence is… red meat. Recently I spent 10 days in Bali. After a week of fish and veggies I started having night time dreams about lamb and steak! About two hours after I landed back in New Zealand I devoured a couple of lamb shanks.

Before working at DOC I… professionally played bass guitar in a girl band, then designed and programmed websites.

Kaja Vetter and a friend at Martins Bay at sunset.

Sunset at Martins Bay

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Be the change you want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… to follow my heart. Even if my mind freaks out because something appears so scary (like moving to the other side of the world all by myself!), following my heart in choice of country, occupation and love has always turned out well!

In work and life I am motivated by… I am doing my best to make my life (and others’) as interesting as possible—through humour (even zough us Germans do not know what zat is!), hard work, deep and meaningful conversations or the right choice of background music!

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… value and protect what you have! I grew up with poisoned rivers and sickly nature around. Coming here and experiencing how different life is when the land around you is healthy was the biggest eye opener. If we don’t have a planet, there is no point to anything, really!

Kaja Vetter doing yoga in Mt Aspiring National Park.

The Astavakrasana yoga pose by Lake Crucible in Mt Aspiring National Park

Question of the week…

If given a chance, who would you like to be for a day?
I’d swap places with someone I dislike and disagree with to understand what is going on inside and where they are coming from. George W. Bush comes to mind. I read his autobiography for that very reason and was shocked that already in the first chapter I had things in common with him—he doesn’t drink alcohol anymore out of choice, neither do I. Against my expectation and inclination I couldn’t help developing more understanding and respect throughout the course of the book.