Jobs at DOC: Renee Potae, Biodiversity Ranger

Department of Conservation —  17/10/2014

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 Renee Potae, Biodiversity Ranger based in Tongariro.

At work

Renee Potae, Biodiversity Ranger based in Tongariro.


Some things I do in my job include:

Monitoring kiwi in the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary, one of New Zealand’s five National Kiwi Sanctuaries set up to research kiwi protection techniques. This involves catching kiwi, lifting eggs from kiwi nests for Operation Nest Egg, monitoring kiwi chicks at Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary kiwi crèche, and speaking to the public about kiwi. We also work with kiwi at Southern Ruapehu Forests and assist with whio and threatened plant monitoring in our district.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Assisting community and iwi led conservation groups by sharing our research findings and involving people from the community in our work.

It is a privilege to be able to provide opportunities for people from many different backgrounds to learn about our national icon and the plight of not only the birds themselves but the greater ecosystems in which they live.

The best bit about my job is:

On any given day I could find myself in a small plane, driving an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), in a 4WD, a helicopter, driving a computer, public speaking, or towing a rural fire trailer to a vegetation fire.

People carrying kiwis in Tongariro Forest on ATVs.

Kiwi release on the ATVs

The funniest and strangest DOC moment I’ve had so far is…

The first time I squeezed my entire body into a log, with only my feet sticking out the end, to retrieve a juvenile kiwi. While inside the log, I still had to use my small hand saw to quietly cut away some roots so I could reach him.

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

Rob Hood, for believing in me whenever I had a new challenge to face. And all of the passionate Biodiversity Rangers I have met across the country, including all of those who have worked on the Tongariro Forest Kiwi Sanctuary Project. It is a challenging environment to work in, but incredibly rewarding.

Renee with an elephant grazing in the background.

Happy elephant—stood in that spot grazing all day

On a personal note

Most people don’t know that I:

I am a fire fighter in the New Zealand Fire Service in the busy Turangi Volunteer Fire Brigade.

My happy place is:

Harataunga – Kennedy Bay on the Coromandel Peninsula, where my Ngāti Porou marae and my father’s family are. I also am at home in Turangi where my mother and Tūwharetoa whānau are from, so I am happy to travel back and forth from the mountains to the sea.

White water rafting on the Nile river.

Rafting on the Nile

My best ever holiday was:   

To Uganda, Africa. I was visiting my partner, who was a raft guide on the Nile at the time. It was awesome to meet rangers in parks and sanctuaries there—and incredibly surreal as they were equipped with armed guards.

It was an amazing place to visit and, despite the challenges, we were sad to leave.

The red dust really gets into your skin and under your feet and serves to draw you back. I can’t wait to visit Africa again.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

I played many sports growing up and had some success rowing in the Senior Women’s 8 for the Cambridge Club, Lake Karapiro. But my favourite sporting moment was when I plucked up the courage to enter some freestyle ski competitions at the ski resort we worked at in Canada. They were small local events and the best I could do was second, but at 30 years old I must have been the oldest competitor, and the most stoked to even land any jumps or rails at all!

My most prized possession is:             

Although he’s not really a “possession”, and he might argue that the shoe is on the other foot, it would be my dog, ‘Tahi’ a pushy but handsome bulldog/huntaway cross.

Renee skiing in Canada.

Canadian powder! Panorama Ski Resort, where I worked as a ski boot fitter

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is:

“A friend is someone who truly knows you, and still likes you!”

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

“Set lofty goals, but don’t forget about the small steps you have to take in the short term to reach those goals…one step at a time.” ~ Mum.

In work and life I am motivated by:

A sense of kaitiakitanga of our taonga, including people, land and/or its inhabitants, to try to look after them for the generations to come.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Make the connection between what happens in our environment and what happens in all of our everyday lives, no matter where we live or what job we have. Realise the impact of environmental health on our society as a whole.

Renee holding a kiwi before a release at Wairakei Sanctuary. Photo: Christal Morrison.

Kiwi release at Wairakei Golf and Sanctuary

Question of the week

If you could communicate/talk with kiwi, what would you like to talk about?

I would probably talk with them about what they think are the best ways we could assist them. Also I am curious to know what they get up to when we are not there and they are awake all night.

One response to Jobs at DOC: Renee Potae, Biodiversity Ranger

    Iritana & Uncle Wayne 05/11/2014 at 5:51 pm

    Just so awesome to read about all you’ve achieved so far in your life Renee. Still a ‘youngie’ with a lot more challenges we know you will conquer. Keep up the good work