Jobs at DOC: The Dorrian Family

Department of Conservation —  29/01/2016

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 it’s a family affair as we profile the the Dorrians, a family who started out in the New Zealand Forest Service before going on to work for DOC.

My husband Henry and I met… when he was forest foreman on the North West Ruahines negotiating access through my family’s farm to the Kawhatau Base camp. He was in charge of deer culling teams and track cutters in this area until DOC was established. Running major possum poisoning operations around central and lower North Island was also part of his work.

Henry and Alison Dorrian at Lake Colenso Hut circa 2005.

Henry and I at Lake Colenso Hut around 2005

I was kept busy during this time… raising our family of three girls and three boys, while supporting Henry in his job. Our house was part family home and part Forest Service Office. The public came into our kitchen for hut and track information and hunting permits. Dinner was often put on hold until the maps could be cleared from the dining room table. Our family grew to include all of the young men who worked under Henry’s guidance, some of whom have remained very close friends.

Other family members joined us… in our work in the Ruahines. Henry’s brother Pat came out from Australia and also married a Kiwi girl. Our families grew up together with the boys often joining their dads in the hills.

Ruahine Forest Park.

Ruahine Forest Park

My conservation journey started when…I was employed by the Forest Service when Henry went to Raoul Island on goat culling operations. He was away for three months the first time, and enjoyed it so much that he spent a further six weeks there the next season. Trainee rangers were left in charge of the Ruahines on these occasions and I helped with public enquiries, permits and the transport of workers.

Following in our footsteps, our children… began working to conserve and protect the environment. As school leavers, our middle son Hugh (known as Ted) and Pat’s son Nigel worked in the Rangitikei area helping with the fight against old man’s beard. Ted learned to navigate the Rangitikei River by jet boat while carrying out weed spraying. Later, he helped in the final possum eradication on Kapiti Island. Neil, our eldest son, also worked for the Forestry Service, in production rather than protection. He helped plant pines on the hills behind Robson Lodge at Kuripapango.

Ted Dorrian, hunting for DOC in Ruahine Forest Park.

Ted Dorrian, hunting for DOC

Our involvement with DOC began… in 1987 when it was formed. The New Zealand Forest Service was one of the departments that made up the Department of Conservation, along with the Wildlife Service, and Lands and Survey. By then, our association with the conservation of the Ruahines and surrounding bush lands was already over twenty years in the making, and involved five or six family members directly. Becoming part of DOC led to us continuing our conservation work, but our roles were no longer in the Ruahines.

After DOC was formed, we helped set up… a DOC office in Mangaweka in the early to mid 1980s and continued to work for conservation around the Rangitikei area, carrying out weed and possum control in the many small reserves in the area. We were also involved in the Paengaroa Mainland Island.

Bill Dorrian hunting goats for DOC.

Bill Dorrian hunting goats for DOC

Our family’s involvement with conservation continued as… Ted and our youngest son Bill went on to become DOC hunters, culling feral goats in Taranaki, Waikato, King Country, Whanganui River and the Coromandel. Ted started hunting on Mount Taranaki in 1989 on temporary contracts, and Bill started in around 2001 in the Waikato. They were both heavily involved with training hunting dogs when the dog protocol was being developed. The new emphasis was on dog obedience and control and things such as kiwi aversion training. Bill left DOC to further his interest in working with dogs as a shepherd, but Ted continued to hunt in Taranaki as well as maintain and improve huts and tracks in the area.  He was also a much respected member of the DOC fire crew.

Henry retired from DOC in 2004, and I retired in 2014, though I can still sometimes be found in the Mangaweka office writing contracts or poison consent applications.

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