Jobs at DOC: Pania Dalley, Services Ranger

Department of Conservation —  07/08/2015

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 Pania Dalley, Services Ranger in Fiordland.

At work

Pania Dalley at Ephesus.


Some things I do in my job include:

Supervising the most awesome bunch of summer seasonal conservation rangers (known as hut rangers or hut wardens).

These are the people who manage our Great Walk huts and facilities in Fiordland National Park.

I call myself the ‘party planner’ because, even though it’s not a party (except for the end-of-season party), I plan and organise recruitment, induction, training, transport logistics, weekly meetings and debriefs as well as hut supplies and sewage extractions.

Several days every season I may be the storm advisor for major weather events on the tracks, or could be cleaning dunnies and checking compliance at one of the many campsites in Fiordland.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Introducing conservation to the tourism sector. I believe conservation plays a major role in the future of tourism in our national parks. Our conservation rangers might be the only person in a DOC uniform that a tramper encounters while in New Zealand. They have the opportunity to engage with guests and introduce them to our unique fauna and flora.

The best bit about my job is:

The diversity and flexibility. I’ve got the best of both worlds. Some days I’m in the office (preferably when it’s raining), other days I’m out on the tracks.

I walk to all of the Great Walk Huts several times a season, meet a lot of our guests along the way, and catch up with the hut rangers in their working environment. It’s compulsory exercise, keeps me fit and I get paid for it!

Pania kea-proofing with a camouflaged street cone high above the Kepler Track.

Kea-proofing with a camouflaged street cone high above the Kepler Track

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

I’ve had so many WOW moments with DOC that it’s hard to select just one. Since I can only choose one, then the awesome-est would have to be, many years ago, working as a hut ranger at Iris Burn Hut, when I was asked about my favourite bird during a hut talk. Rifleman is my favourite, so I went on to describe what they looked like and where they could be seen near the hut. At that exact moment, a rifleman hit the window outside and knocked itself out. Oh wow!!! (There’s my WOW moment.) I picked it up and walked around the room with the cutest little bird in my hand – an opportunistic conservation ‘show and tell’ moment!

I actually have chosen two moments, the other scariest/awesome-est moment was when a southern right whale/tohora breached beside my dinghy in Supper Cove, Dusky Sound. Fair to say my heart rate increased somewhat as the tail came up within arm’s reach. The gentle giant didn’t want to muck around and slowly lowered its tail, flopping ever so gently on the back of the dinghy and slipping back into the deep water.

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

Caroline Carter.  She was such an inspirational woman who lived, loved and dreamed conservation. Her drive and passion to educate conservation values through touching, seeing and doing saw the implementation and support of many community projects. She encouraged people to look beyond their front door and get out and play with nature.

Caroline was the queen of organisation and left no stone unturned. Sadly, Caroline passed away in February this year. She left behind a legacy of which we can all be proud.

Pania and other rangers playing air guitar on the Mackinnon Pass.

Another day in at the office with a bit of ‘air guitar’ on Mackinnon Pass

On a personal note

Most people don’t know that:

I featured in a book called ‘New Boots in New Zealand’ by Gillian Orrell.

A woman sidled up to me at the finish-line of the Kepler Challenge in 2007 and said she had travelled through New Zealand in 2005 gathering information for a book about the nine Great Walks. In one of the chapters, she wrote about me as the hut ranger for Iris Burn Hut. During my hut talk I would demonstrate the kiwi call. Her description in her book was…”she threw her head back and screeched like a kiwi”. If you want to know more then read the book.

My best ever holiday was:

Backpacking through Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand in 2012 with just seven kilos of carry-on luggage and no plans.

I enjoyed the Vietnamese people, who were super friendly; the food was full of fresh vegetables; a handle of local beer was 25 cents; and just crossing the road was an experience.

I was so excited to tick Angkor Wat in Cambodia off my bucket list. I stood on the causeway in front of the ancient buildings, looked about at the hundreds of people and thought, no one knows me! So, I jumped in the air whoop whooping with a huge grin on my face.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

I won the bronze medal at the NZ Ju Jitsu Tournament in 1987; or taking 12 seconds off the senior girls 1500 metres running record at Taieri High School. As I was the only girl in the event, I had to run with the boys. There was no way I was letting them get ahead of me!!! Hence the record-breaking run.

Before working at DOC:

I was a sports coordinator at Tweedsmuir Junior High School in Invercargill, where my primary role was to increase the participation of students in physical education.

I organised everything and anything from lunchtime inter-class round robin competitions, athletics, swimming and triathlons through to ski trips and school camps. I also worked part-time as a fitness instructor at the YMCA Gym in Invercargill for many years.

The song that always cheers me up is:

Bohemian Rhapsody’ by Queen because everybody’s a rock star when they attempt to sing this song!

My biggest pet peeve is:

Adults chewing gum with their mouth open!

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is:

“Don’t wait for the storm to pass, learn to dance in the rain”. This quote is so true on many levels.

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

“If you can’t afford to pay cash, then you can’t afford it.” This wise advice has kept me debt-free aside from the odd mortgage or two over the years.

In work and life I am motivated by:

My energy to get out there and enjoy it!  If I didn’t enjoy it, then I couldn’t be in the job I do now, walking the Great Walk tracks several times a season swinging a silky saw. Nor could I keep up with my children or my dog, bike between wineries, run over mountains, tick some of the items off my bucket list or hike to places off the beaten track here in New Zealand and overseas.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…Recycle, upcycle and bicycle.

Question of the week

If you were a character from an animated film (like Disney or Pixar) who would you be?

Pocahontas – I love theme parties! I’ve dressed as Pocahontas twice in recent years.

One response to Jobs at DOC: Pania Dalley, Services Ranger


    That was so awesome Pania! I’m so proud of what you have achieved and will go on achieving for years to come. That’s my girl. X