Jobs at DOC: Brian Sheppard, Government Support

Department of Conservation —  24/01/2014

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 Brian Sheppard, Government Support Manager, based in Wellington.

Brian with his camera in Rotorua.

Capturing memories at Wai-o-Tapu, Rotorua

At work

Some things I do in my job include… helping the flow of information between the Minister and department, and supporting managers to meet the Minister’s requirements.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by…strengthening the ties between the Minister and department.

The best bit about my job is… getting to know so many people with such a strong commitment to the department and its work.

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… advising on a request from Japan to ship a block of glacier to Fukushima as a feature exhibit at a New Zealand stand in a trade show. I found what permissions were needed so that the Fukushima prefecture could make the necessary arrangements to collect and ship it out in a refrigerated container ship. I did warn them though that the Japanese border control people might have some difficulty in deciding whether a one cubic metre block of ‘dirty ice’ was an acceptable import. It was let into the country, did what was required for the duration of the show, and everyone was happy.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… John Holloway, a previous director at DOC, who had a remarkable ability to draw on and apply his strong understanding of land management and ecology to guide the department’s work. He provided sound, pragmatic, advice and direction that earned him the huge respect of staff and associates on all sides of conservation issues. 

Bird on the wharf at Chaffers marina, Wellington.

Taking terns at Chaffers marina, Wellington

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is… the Wellington coastline which, like the city itself, offers so much variety in such a small area – from the downtown waterfront, to family beaches and wild coastline, especially the uplifted rocks along the Taputeranga marine reserve on the south coast.

My greatest sporting moment was… a rare event as I rarely ‘do’ sport. While at university, I rowed in an eight for the ‘May Bumps’. England’s river Cam is too narrow to pass and so, after a staggered start, the aim is to catch and bump the boat in front. We never won but I had a great time, even with the ominous name of our boat ‘B.A. Cantab (failed)’.

In my spare time I… spend quality time with family (including our ‘grand dog’ Bailey) and friends, mostly cooking, eating and having fun, but I also spend a lot of time, and probably too much money, with my photography.

I also provide support by telephone through the Cancer Society, for people dealing with head and neck cancers and I am a ‘consumer representative’ for head and neck cancer programmes run by district health boards. The most recent of these has been assisting in the development of plans for faster cancer treatment to meet new requirements of the Minister of Health. This work lets me give something back for the fantastic support that I received for dealing with tongue cancer nearly a decade ago.

A photograph of Wellington's south coast by Brian Sheppard.

Wellington’s south coast

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… Just do it!

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… make the most of life. You only get one chance.

In work and life I am motivated by… the energy and enthusiasm of others.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… have a look at conservation challenges in other countries, recognise the importance of what we have and what we are achieving, then do your best to build on it.

Brian's dog Bailey at the beach with a stick.

Bailey (the grand dog)

Question of the week…

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why? I would love to have met the photographer, Brian Brake. I only became aware of his work through an exhibition at Te Papa. He had mastered his art over a long career in New Zealand and overseas. His work, in monochrome or colour, is stunning. It would have been great to see him at work and to follow his thought processes that led to the recognition and capture of the essential elements of a scene. What’s more it all happened before digital photography and Photoshop. What a master!