Jobs at DOC: Terry Farrell, Planner

Department of Conservation —  30/01/2015

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 Planner, Terry Farrell, who is retiring from DOC today after dedicating his life and career to conservation over the last 47 years.

Terry swinging a golf club.

Sorting out my swing in the Landsborough

At work…

Some things I used do in my job include:

Planning and implementing the West Coast animal pest programme from the beginning of DOC.

Nothing worthwhile gets done without money, so my role was to battle for funding and then manage this centrally to ensure we could respond to priorities and to grow the pest control programme in an organised manner.

At one point the West Coast was doing 30% of New Zealand’s possum/rat control. I also coordinated the Himalayan tahr control plan and its implementation for 20 years.

I was lucky enough to manage a small team of monitoring staff, to support the large animal pest programme we had through measuring outputs, ecological outcomes and long term ecosystem change. I became expert at mining their knowledge and enjoyed the opportunities for field trips it gave me.

The last challenge I have had was pulling together the Battle for our Birds programme which was the Department’s response to the 2014 beech mast and rodent irruption.

Helicopters preparing for pest control drop on the West Coast.

The tool of choice for West Coast pest control

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Killing critters and keeping ecosystems functioning. Also known as “achieving intermediate outcomes 1.1, 1.2 and 1.6”. All key goals for us in this business.

The best bit about my job was:

Three things really—firstly, working with a fantastic group of people throughout the West Coast on a common task over a long time; secondly, being able to work in, fly around, and explore nearly every piece of the West Coast’s natural real estate, which is big, sometimes challenging, but beautiful; thirdly, the satisfaction of building up a large pest control programme from scratch and seeing the results in real outcomes of healthy forests and wildlife populations. My biggest regret is we couldn’t do more.

1080 DROP TODAY sign at the Haast Pub.

Haast community finally appreciate our pest control work

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

In the early days of DOC I decided to organise a public meeting at Haast to convince the locals of the merits of our plan to start a long term and widespread aerial 1080 campaign in their backyard to protect the still pristine forests from colonising possums. As you can imagine in the heartland of deer hunters the idea floated like a lead balloon—but I got out unscathed.

Nice to report that after 20 years of operations their world didn’t end, there are still plenty of deer, healthy forests and wildlife and we now have a lot of support for our work.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that I:

Hold the local record for walking to the most West Coast backcountry huts—77 out of about 142. It’s time someone challenged this record.

Terry standing in front of the old Dillons homestead in the Taipo Valley.

Favourite haunt the old Dillons homestead in the Taipo Valley

The song that always cheers me up is:

Anything from those 60’s and 70’s rock and blues groups.

My happy place is:

I’m a morning person, so pre-dawn is my favourite time—when trees are sharply defined against a lightening sky, when the air is cool and calm and the earth is wakening up and an hour later when morning sun dapples through the forest canopy. Also, Otago in the autumn is really nice, and the Landsborough Valley at any time.

Terry and his family in front of mountains in Oman.

Holiday in the mountains of Oman

My best ever holiday was:

My son and his family (two grandchildren) live in the Middle East, so that has been the stepping stone for many holidays around both the Middle East and Europe.

A road and camping trip through neighbouring Oman was special as that country has such marvellous history, mountains, deserts and coastlines to enjoy.

The thing I’m most looking forward to in the next six months is:

Finding my feet as a “self employed” person. Also keen to volunteer on some grass roots conservation work and trying hard not to miss the daily challenges and the people.

Terry and his family at Christmas.

Family home for Christmas

Before working at DOC:

There was life before DOC? After a brief dabble with civil engineering I was drawn to managing forests with the NZ Forest Service for 18 years, starting as a trainee Ranger and ending up at Hokitika. Covered lots of roles; culler, back country facilities, forest research,  timber cruising, roads, exotic forest planning and management and all the people management challenges that go with these roles.

Deep and meaningful…

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

To move to the South Island. Then my decision to choose the West Coast as the place to live and work.

Terry and Kath tramping in Arthur's Pass.

Tramping in Arthur’s Pass with Kath—planning to do more of this

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Conservation of species and ecosystems is about killing the bad guys, so be upfront and don’t be squeamish about it. It all costs money—so take every opportunity when it is on offer; always try to improve the tool box, listen to research, adapt, test new things, plan and coordinate with partners to get things done.

One response to Jobs at DOC: Terry Farrell, Planner


    Good to se a photo of the old Dillon home, had a few brews with Ma Dillon out of the big kettle she used to swing over the fire,with a big white marble in it.
    Thanks for the memory.