Jobs at DOC: Pete Hall, Hut Warden

Department of Conservation —  14/11/2014

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 Kauaeranga Valley Hut Warden, Pete Hall

Pete sitting on a rock on the top of the Pinnacles with islands in the background.

On the top of The Pinnacles

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

I keep Pinnacles Hut, in the Kauaeranga Valley near Thames, humming along—making sure visitors are happy and get the full experience during their visit.

I relate information about the history and legends of the area through a slideshow. Even the projector is historic—all adding to the authenticity of the 80-100 year old photographs.

Basically, a lot of meeting and greeting, maintenance and storytelling.

Pinnacles Hut.

The cheapest hotel in the land—Pinnacles Hut

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Making people aware of the special environment they are passing through and visiting. Advising them on how they can contribute to the conservation of the area by respecting the tracks and environment.

Unfortunately, not everyone is aware or gets the opportunity to learn what went on in this very special place 100+ years ago.

I’ve been cracking down on litter lately. It amazes me how blasé some of the general public are when it comes to littering. We have trampers arriving at the hut with pockets full of litter picked up off the track—very disappointing.
The best bit about my job is:

Wow there’s a few: Being able to hang out in such an awesome place for eight days at a time. Meeting fantastic like-minded people from all over the world and sharing stories. Feeding off the positivity of the visitors who are beaming after just completing a challenging tramp to this magnificent place. The sense of pride in our country when so many foreigners can’t stop raving about how wonderful our country is.

An orange sunset from the top of The Pinnacles.

Sunset from the top of The Pinnacles

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

I am allowed to have my kiwi aversion trained Border Terrier at the hut with me. One night, in the school holidays, I asked four Auckland kids if they had seen a possum before. They hadn’t, so I took them to see one, I knocked it out from its hiding spot and it fell to the ground. Maddie, aka mad-dog, pounced on it and throttled it in 15 seconds in front of the wide-mouthed kids. After I apologised to the parents the kids came running back saying “mummy that lil’ fluffy dog just pulled a possum apart in front of us.” Good conservation work Maddie.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

I gotta say the whole team from Thames office, the valley workshop, and the girls at the Visitor Centre. Having previously been self employed for 30 years, and now only ten months with DOC, I’m enjoying the camaraderie of a tight team. Special mention must go to my mentor, Frouk Miller though—she is a legend.

Pinnacle Hut with the wardens hut in foreground.

Pinnacle Hut with the wardens hut in foreground

On a personal note

Most people don’t know that: 

I breed kākāriki.

Kākāriki birds in an aviary with two dogs in the background.

My kākāriki cleaning themselves with manuka flowers

The song that always cheers me up is:

Groovin’ Slowly by John Butler or Shout It To The Top by The Style Council.

My stomping ground is:

Hikuai Valley

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is:

Getting this job 10 months ago has changed my life in so many ways.

In my spare time:

I go up rivers, or to the beach, as I work and live in the bush and need to get some beach time in.

The Pinnacles backlit with sunlight seen from the Hikuai Valley.

View of The Pinnacles from my property in Hikuai Valley

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

A kākāriki, fantastic childish, naughty happy birds.

My secret indulgence is:

Loud music of many varieties.

Before working at DOC:

I was a self employed ceramic tiler for 30 years.

Deep and meaningful:

My favourite quote is:

Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

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

Attitude is more important than education, money, failures, successes, appearance, than what other people think or say or do. Every day we have a choice regarding the ‘attitude’ we will embrace for that day.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Nature, beauty, happiness, attitude…I could go on.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

90% of the people I deal with are like minded environmentally friendly, outdoorsy, trampers or nature lovers. That’s fantastic, but there’s still a certain amount of people out there that don’t give a toss and spoil things for the rest of us. Those people need to realise that we are lucky to live in the best country on the planet and we all need to do our bit to keep it that way. An amazing amount of foreigners I deal with ask me the same question—why do so many New Zealanders go overseas when you have the best place in the world right here?

Pete walking the Diamond Lake Walk at Lake Wanaka.

Lake Wanaka—another very special place in our magnificent country

Question of the week…

Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best?

I recently came home from a stint up the mountain to find my veggie garden decimated. I have a six foot fence and gate around it to keep the chooks out. Someone had been into the garden didn’t shut the gate. It was like Christmas to the girls. They dug up 80 sunflower seeds (grown for my kākāriki) 50 corn, courgettes, spring/red onions and I had no spinach or silverbeet left. The good thing to come out of this is I now have a freezer full of breasts, legs and roasts of the chicken variety. 15 hens was way too many just for me anyway.

2 responses to Jobs at DOC: Pete Hall, Hut Warden


    “Good conservation work Maddie”



    Awesome job! Well done. Excellent hut well maintained and great accommodation.

    well worth the walk up