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 Bruce Parkes, Deputy Director-General Science and Policy.
What’s your background?
I was born in Taumaranui – so I’m Bruce from Taumaranui, which is about as kiwiana as you get. However I grew up in Napier, so I consider myself a Hawke’s Bay boy.
I have a university degree in English Literature but with a good dose of economics so a slightly unusual combination. I worked the majority of my career in the electricity and telecommunications sector before joining the Government in 2009.
Where did you work before DOC?
I came to DOC from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) in July 2015. At MBIE I was general manager of the policy group responsible for natural resources, energy and communications. I spent a lot of time on the project rolling out the ultrafast broadband fibre network to most of New Zealand. In 2013 I did a stint in the Prime Minister’s policy group which was a great experience.
I also have an additional role working with the Pike River families. That position came about in December 2012 after the Royal Commission Report and has meant being the central Government contact for the families throughout the last three years.
Why did you want to come and work for DOC?
I wanted to work here because I believe overwhelmingly in what the Department is trying to do. Not just in terms of conservation, but in terms of the emphasis on working with partners and communities and business – I found that a really appealing change for the Department.
What’s the biggest challenge or opportunity facing conservation?
I tend to see challenges and opportunities often as the same thing. Getting really clear about how we can harness all the amazing talent we have to best support DOC to achieve its long term goals is one of the things I spend the most of my time thinking about.
I see real opportunities over time in winning the battle against pests. Freshwater is a big priority for Government and I think that is an area that deserves more focus. I was really delighted at the announcement of the Kermadec Sanctuary and I am hoping that will be the start of a greater focus on marine conservation issues.
I can see lots of opportunities for us to shape the way we work with iwi given our shared objectives of kaitiakitanga.
And finally there is tourism which is knocking on the door of being our biggest sector in the economy. The majority of people come from overseas to see the conservation estate. How do we manage the impact on the environment of the huge increase in tourist numbers? What’s our role to support the tourism industry?
On a personal note…
What do you like to do outside of work?
We have four children who are almost off our hands – but they’re in boomerang phase so they are always coming and going.
I’m a keen mountain biker. I’ve had a bit of involvement with the Pollhil Reserve in Brooklyn, developing the tracks and trapping there. That’s an awesome asset to Wellington. I’m really pleased we’ve got 150 traps in the reserve. I have caught two weasels and I can now set a DOC-200 trap without losing my fingers.
As a family we like getting outdoors – I’ve done eight of the Great Walks, some of them more than once. My wife and I and friends are doing Lake Waikaremoana at Christmas time and the Heaphy in April next year. In January this year I climbed Mt Kilimanjaro.
I’m also in a Masters Soccer team, a member of the Miramar Golf Club and play bridge. I’ve been obsessed with rugby all my life.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
One of my mentors is Roderick Deane, who was my first Chief Executive. He told me there’s only three or four things every year in your working life that really count. There’ll be a whole lot of things you have to do competently, but there’s only three or four things that will really make a difference. The trick is not only to do those three or four things really well, but to understand what they are.
Which person living or dead would you most like to have around to dinner?
Charles Dickens – he’s my favourite author, he’d be incredibly interesting and entertaining and he’s got more energy than our Director-General Lou Sanson.
How did you get your fifteen minutes of fame?
I’m mad keen on Lord of the Rings so I queued up to be an extra, and was tall enough to become a scale extra. That’s where you act in a scene standing next to one of hobbits or dwarves to make them look short.
I got to do seven or eight scenes in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, working on three out of the six movies. I’ve been in scenes with the four hobbits, and all the dwarves and Bilbo. One of my scenes was literally the first day of shooting on the very first movie. While I was getting make up on I sat next to Elijah Wood, who was getting his hobbit ears and hairy feet put on. Because the movies hadn’t come out I had no idea he was famous. He was a very friendly hobbit to talk to.
You can spot me in The Fellowship of the Ring in the village of Bree scene, when Peter Jackson does his cameo in the film.