Jobs at DOC: Maria Deutsch, Outreach and Education

Department of Conservation —  09/05/2014

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 Maria Deutsch, Outreach and Education Coordinator, based in Nelson…

Maria amongst the speargrass flowers on Mt Peel.

Researching our beautiful flora — speargrass flowers on Mt Peel

At work

Some things I do in my job include: 

My personal vision is to make a significant contribution to connecting people to nature at a deeper level and to mainstream conservation in Aotearoa/New Zealand.To achieve this I (hopefully) work to my strengths and skills, including: facilitation and coaching, creative thinking around interacting with new audiences and development of tools, hands-on input in the partnership space in the community, and supporting the many awesome people in my region in the best way I can. I also have input in national partnerships and enjoy finding solutions to conundrums.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Facilitating approaches that inspire people about their relationship with nature and through this engaging them in conservation in a way that is meaningful to them.

The best bit about my job is:

My team!  A more awesome, creative, down to earth practical and yet visionary team you will not easily find; it has taken motivation to a whole new level.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Co-facilitating a young leaders’ programme at Whites Bay in the Sounds. Young leaders were taking younger children on a one hour forest exploration walk that included plant knowledge and survival skills; every hour the young leaders and us swapped over to a new group of children. The biggest buzz for me happened at round three when one of the young leaders took over the facilitation of the walk—he included group and leadership skills he had picked up from us alongside the forest knowledge he had learned—us DOC-ites stood back and he held the space!  What an awesome outcome.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

I have been with DOC since December 2012 and since then I have met too many inspirational people to choose just one. There are funny ones, enthusiastic ones, clever ones, persistent ones, scary ones, odd ones, peculiar ones and ALL are an inspiration in their own right. Ka mau te wehe!

Three red rata flowers.

Rewards of kaitiakitanga—rata flowers in our forest

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is:

36 hectares of native bush that I have been kaitiaki for during the last 20 years with a comprehensive pest control programme and a lot of sharing with others of this special place which now shows the reward of our mahi in a healthy forest and fantastic birdlife. After that it’s tramping in Te Tau Ihu, West Coast and Mount Aspiring National Park. Though working with the Māori Cadets has given me a taste of Te Ika-a-Māui (the North Island)—so more to explore.

My greatest sporting moment was:

Leading a grade 21 rock climb on a tricky slab in Castle Hill/Kura Tāwhiti and getting to the top unscathed.

In my spare time I:

Go cycle touring, photograph patterns and wonders in nature, write poetry, do mosaics, tend to my organic vege garden and orchard, create space to be with friends, take children through our bush, read books, go to concerts… what spare time?

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to:

Work as a facilitator in situations where multi stakeholder collaboration, including indigenous cultures, brings about new sustainable ways of living in tune with the ecosystem.

Before working at DOC:

I was self employed for 13 years in community development and as a facilitator, coach, trainer, creator of organisational solutions and leading initiatives of integration of nature as an asset for organisational work.  I was also one of the main tutors on the Maori Conservation Cadetship— what an awesome whanau and wonderful young leaders some of whom now work for us—kia kaha e hoa mā!

Maria amongst the mountains in the upper Copeland Valley, South Westland.

Feeding the soul in the upper Copeland Valley, South Westland

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…

“You have to go through chaos to create a burning star” (Nitzsche)

And my favourite Whakataukī: Toi tu te marae a Tane, Toi tu te marae a Tangaroa, Toi tu nga Iwi.  (if the realms of Tane and Tangaroa prosper, then we will prosper too).

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is:

My dad used to say two things that stayed with me: “there is always a better way of doing it” and “there is always a choice, even if people tell you there isn’t” (he created some unbelievable choices in Nazi Germany—my grandfather was the head of the local resistance movement). The two pieces of advice sit together for me, combining choice and self responsibility with a drive for excellence that creates true innovation.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Inspirational people that walk the talk, children that laugh and play and nature as a teacher.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

There is a wellspring of health, enjoyment and inspiration in nature—go out and explore and experience and delight in it.  Once you understand this, the rest will follow…

Maria with a piece of driftwood shaped like a fish at the beach.

What type of fish is this?

Question of the week…

Who would you like to be stuck in a lift with and why?

Adam Kahane, Dalai Lama, Jeanette Fitzsimons and Christine Hogan for fascinating conversations that can change the world, and the lead singer of Runrig and Loreena McKinnett for some beautiful singing.