Jobs at DOC: Mangaweka Ranger, Alison Dorrian

Department of Conservation —  27/06/2014

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 conservation stalwart, Mangaweka Ranger, Alison Dorrian, who retires from DOC today.

At work

When did you start working at DOC?

Alison with a glass of Guinness at Temple Bar in Dublin.

Alison with a glass of Guinness at
Temple Bar in Dublin

I started working part time for the NZ Forest Service around 1979, when my husband went to Raoul Island for three months leaving me and Ranger Will Abel in charge of things in the North West Ruahines.

I needed to be employed to legitimise my driving of departmental vehicles and signing my name to hunting permits etc.

I was part time from then through until starting at DOC, when I helped set up the Mangaweka Field Centre.

At the time, the Mangaweka Field Centre had a public office. I had the grand title of Field Centre Support and did all the admin work. We also had the Postal Agency in our office, so were very much in the public eye.

About 10 years ago the public office at Mangaweka closed. At that point I had the option to become a field worker or to leave. So it was then that I began to learn to ride all-terrain vehicles (ATV’s), do possum and rat monitoring, fencing, weed spraying…

It’s been a busy life and will continue to be busy… just unpaid.

Lunch in the Pourangaki with Toby, the dog, Kathleen and Ted, about 1974

Lunch in the Pourangaki with Toby the dog and two of my kids
Kathleen and Ted. About 1974

Some things I do in my job include:

Killing things—mainly weeds… or preparing ground, aerial and abseil contracts for other people to kill them; I’m the local contact for hunting and possum permits, and access issues; I liaise with Regional Council weed staff, local community groups and schools; I repair fences, monitor possums, rats and threatened plant species…

This is me with Henry during a RTC (residual trap catch) monitoring trip to Lake Colenso.

With Henry during a RTC (residual trap catch) monitoring trip to Lake Colenso

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Being out there doing.

The best bit about my job is:

The views, the sounds and smells, followed closely by the people.

On our way to view the Mangaweka Scenic Reserve Dactylanthus in 2009.

On our way to view the Mangaweka Scenic Reserve Dactylanthus in 2009

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Being stuck in the mud rescuing eels after having drained a pond to eradicate the koi carp. Finally got out with the help of a shovel. Now where’s that photo gone…

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

My husband Henry who left us in March 2012. He had a way about him that inspired many. We miss you Henry.

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is:

Seed Trap collection on a frosty morning at Paengaroa Mainland Island

Seed Trap collection on a frosty morning at Paengaroa Mainland Island

Anything by John Foggerty, JJ Cale, or Kris Kristofferson. Also, after last Friday night, Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show.

My stomping ground is:

The Kawhatau Valley where I grew up and where I first met Henry. It’s simply home!

My best ever holiday was:

Six weeks in Europe with my youngest daughter, followed closely by a weekend at Mokai Hut with my son and grandson last year.

In my spare time I:

What spare time?!

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be:

A falcon, with the wind beneath my wings.

My secret indulgence is:

Red wine, but it’s no secret.

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

A historian… that’s the next chapter.

Before working at DOC I:

Worked for the New Zealand Forest Service and, before that… my memory fails me.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

At the moment “There is no poison on earth more potent, nor half so deadly, as a partial truth mixed with passion” ~ Michael J. Tucker.

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

My Dad telling me “If you’re cold, get away from the front of the fire and go and chop some wood.”

With Henry and four of our six children at my 60th. From L to R Sara, Bill, myself, Ted, Henry, Kathleen

With Henry and four of our six children at my 60th.
From L to R Sara, Bill, myself, Ted, Henry, Kathleen

In work and life I am motivated by:

Children… the next generation.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

I don’t usually give advice, I like to lead by example, BUT just get out and learn what NZ has to offer… and enjoy!

Question of the week…

What will you miss most about working at DOC?

There is no need for me to miss anything… all the reasons for my enjoyment of the job over the years, I can take with me: The good friends I have made, the places I feel at one with, the ones that energise and inspire me, the awareness and appreciation of the environment around me.

If I’m feeling a little un-attached I can always go and cut some Old Man’s Beard—there’s plenty left. Or I may take some time to instil in the next generation some of that awareness and appreciation.