Jobs at DOC: Jo Mead, Community Ranger

Department of Conservation —  13/11/2015

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 Jo Mead, Community Ranger in Franz Josef.

Jo Mead holding a kiwi.

Holding a kiwi

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

A large part of my work is statutory, such as processing concessions and assisting with Resource Management Act approvals. This work opens up a wide range of opportunities to talk to various community members and businesses. When I monitor concessions I can sometimes find myself in glorious sunshine in fabulous locations. When I have time, I help drive agreements with community initiatives over the line, often finishing work started by others in my office.

Successes so far include a short cycle/walkway enabling safe recreation off the highway, a wetland restoration featuring Okarito and Lake Wahapo, and everything in between. I’m now working with another group on a far more ambitious plan to extend the West Coast Wilderness Trail all the way to Franz Josef.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Helping locals to protect biodiversity or restore degraded sites and enabling recreation opportunities that suit families. The process of managing concessions can also demonstrate how closely linked the environment and economy are.

The best bit about my job is:

I work in one of the most spectacular environments in the country. Landscapes range from glacial mountains to sandy coastline, all crammed into a 20 kilometre wide strip. This brings me into contact with some very interesting people too. Being an avid gardener, I can call the whole region ‘my backyard’, so there is plenty to do.

The Waiho River.

The Waiho River teaches respect for Mother Nature.

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

Hiking up to Alex Knob with my mates Annie and Ester with just a little bit of snow left. Or, it might have been the time I was allowed to release a young rowi into the Okarito sanctuary – the first time I had touched a live kiwi in daylight.  Working with Te Runanga o Makaawhio, it was a day to be treasured. Also scary and awesome was when the Waiho river flooded in May; how stupendously powerful is water!

The previous DOC employee who inspired me is:

Now-retired Alison Dorrian, of Mangaweka. Although she often had reason to, she never swore! In fact, the whole team was pretty cool – we sought out and destroyed old man’s beard and white bryony along the cliffs of Rangitikei River. Their sheer joy for working in the environment was infectious, and I have brought that with me. Now I pursue gorse.

The Rangitikei River.

Searching for old man’s beard on the cliffs of the Rangitikei River

On a personal note

Most people don’t know that:

I am digitally impaired. It’s true – when I was a small child, I put my finger where it did not belong. You see, in those days the family hand-milked four cows and separated cream from milk in a hand powered, geared machine. My father had removed the back cover to repair the cogs, and failed to replace it by the time my older brother did the milk. Curious little Jo put her finger in to see what would happen, the tip of the index finger disappeared into the greasy cogs, Mum threw her bemused child into the Bedford and ‘flew’ up to the hospital. I learned that preserving jar rubbers do not work for compression (perhaps that was Mum’s lesson), Bedford trucks are awesome, and nail varnish looks silly on my hand.

Jo with a cream/milk separator.

Re-enactment of how I lost my finger tip

My happy place is:

In the forest. Any forest.

In my spare time:

I potter in the Okarito Nursery, or explore the many tracks and beaches along the coast.

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

Fungi. Talk about networks! No organism does it better than fungi. No forest exists without it – oh, to be so useful. I like stinkhorns for their outrageously fraudulent tactics for distribution.

Stinkhorn fungi.


Before working full time at DOC:

I was self employed mowing lawns, designing and planting or maintaining gardens, and completing my degree in Ecology. During that time, I worked summer break weekdays along the Rangitikei River destroying old man’s beard, weekends mowing lawns, and studying full-time during semesters. It nearly killed me but was well worth the effort. The views and the forests were so energising and the teams I worked with were awesome too!

Deep and meaningful

Jo at Christmas Lookout at Franz Josef Waiau Glacier.

Climbing to Alex Knob at Franz Josef Glacier

My favourite quote is:

“If you think small things cannot make a difference, try going to sleep with a mosquito in the room” (Anonymous). It sums up my approach to conservation or any committee enterprise: your vote does count – or – we can clear those weeds one metre at a time.

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

“Ask for help.” People will not think any less of you for it. Better yet: “Ask and ye shall receive” is so much more outcome-oriented.

In work and life I am motivated by:

A deep abiding curiosity for life, and enough pride to do it (life) well. I expect I will only have one go at it, and would like people to celebrate my life.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Do it one step at a time. When many ordinary people do small things often, it adds up to a great deal. So, have a crack at what interests you, and do not worry about the scale of the problem in front of you.

Question of the week

If you could know the answer to any question, besides “what is the meaning of life?” what would it be?

Why do people insert an apostrophe in a plural word which is not possessive?

3 responses to Jobs at DOC: Jo Mead, Community Ranger


    Nice yarn Jo, if your lucky you may reincarnate as a stinkhorn – love from ‘Joey the Rowi’

    Klaartje van Schie 13/11/2015 at 2:40 pm

    Great story, Jo! Awesome hearing you are loving it down there 🙂 You’re doing awesome work! Indeed good memories looking for weeds down the Rangitikei River! Klaartje van Schie.

    Rikki McGregor 13/11/2015 at 12:30 pm

    Kia ora Jo. I’m so very proud on how far you have come in the last 4 or so years. Keep up the very good work your doing. You now have the best of both worlds living where your work and working where you live. Kei te mihi kia koe.


    Rikki McGregor