Jobs at DOC: Dave Matthews, Ranger

Department of Conservation —  22/04/2016

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 we profile Dave Matthews who is retiring from DOC after 33 years working as a ranger based out of Hamilton.

Dave planting another tree.

Dave planting another tree (a career tally of many thousands)

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Track and structure inspections, general maintenance of tracks and facilities, signage, fire permits and readiness and (the occasional) reptile and bird permitting.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Keeping our tracks and facilities safe and enjoyable for visitors and enhancing their experience of the great outdoors.

The best bit about my job is:

Being out and about in our fabulous back country. Sitting on top of Mount Pirongia and having a falcon fly past your face.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is:

The late Don Major. He had amazing skill at just about everything he did and always maintained the highest levels of integrity and honesty. I also enjoyed my long association with Bruce Postill in the Waikato area.

Dave Matthews (seated front right) in the original ‘Tainui District’ team photo. Photograph: Bruce Postill.

Dave Matthews (seated front right) in the original ‘Tainui District’ team photo

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I have a log-splitter.

The song that always cheers me up is:

Have You Ever Seen The Rain’ by Creedence Clearwater Revival.

My happy place is:

Anywhere in Tongariro National Park.

dave-matthews-pahautea-hutWork colleagues over many years, Bruce Postill (left) and Dave at Pahautea Hut, atop Mount Pirongia.

Work colleagues over many years, Bruce Postill (left) and Dave at Pahautea Hut, atop Mount Pirongia

If I could trade places with any other person for a week, it would be:

Julius Caesar (when he was good friends with Cleopatra).

My best ever holiday was:

Spending six months touring Europe in a Kombi van might have been the ‘best’ but arriving in New York with my family a few days after 9/11 was certainly memorable. Looking down on Ground Zero from the Empire State Building; being there when America went to war against Afghanistan; the anthrax scare in New Jersey. We went from place to place catching up with American students that we had hosted at home over the years. Seeing places like Vermont, up by the Canadian border – breathtaking.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

I climbed Mount D’Archaic in Aoraki National Park. (And I carried the baton from Piarere to Tirau prior to the 1974 Commonwealth games!

The thing I’m most looking forward to in the next 6 months is:

Having my wife Dianne back from Nauru, where she has been teaching for the past two and a half years and adjusting to retirement mode.

Dave Matthews and wife Diane. Photo: Bruce Postill.

Dave and Diane – let the new chapter begin!

In my spare time:

I enjoy cycling, anything physical, reading (mainly non-fiction).

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

An Archey’s frog. Living for decades without having to get into water.

My secret indulgence is:

Playing with my log-splitter.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to:

Be a permanent traveller, exploring New Zealand’s backcountry.

Before working at DOC:

I was a teacher for nine years, then three years as ranger assistant for Department of Lands and Survey.

My hero is:

Sir Edmund Hillary.

My biggest pet peeve is:

Don’t really have any. Maybe people who always say ‘awesome’!

My most prized possession is:

My log splitter.

Dave on duty at Mystery Creek Fieldays. Photo: Bruce Postill.

Dave on duty at Mystery Creek Fieldays (career tally of many thousands of words of sound advice!)

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’ (Lawrence Oates)

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

Think before you speak.

In work and life I am motivated by:

The challenge of doing a job well. (Okay, the challenge of doing it perfectly!)

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Look after it while you’ve still got it.

A few words about Dave by Bruce Postill

Following a travel period overseas Dave returned to work for Lands & Survey Dept in the mid 1980s as a Reserve Assistant. When DOC was established in 1987 he became a field ranger attached to the original Waikato Region’s Tainui District, a role he retained until this year.

Dave is a keen outdoorsman and has a broad range of skills. Climbing, hunting, tramping and prior to working with DOC he was an outdoor education teacher.

He has always been an outspoken and passionate conservationist. He’s never been short of something to say, especially on political matters or if someone in the office failed to use the correct recycle bin. He was our office’s ‘recycling conscience’. Talking and being able to pass his skills or opinion to anyone within earshot is one of his favourite pastimes.

There are more funny stories about Dave than almost anyone else in the Waikato District. On one occasion he was undertaking the painting of a two metre high galvanised iron fence. It overhung a very wet peat bog:

“What we will do is get a long plank to overhang the bog. Drive the front wheel of the 4×4 onto the end of the plank and I will walk out to the end and do the painting.” Dave carefully made it to the end of the plank and with the first stroke of the brush, the plank pivoted sideways away from the fence. The paint was lost and Dave was fully enveloped in the bog.

One of Dave’s outstanding skills was the quality of his workmanship on tracks, building jobs and especially signs.

Dave only had one standard, ‘perfect’. If a sign needed two coats of paint it got three. He always had a critical eye for grammatical text issues on draft signs. The placement of the sign and where holes were dug, the signed washed and the ground left appearing undisturbed.

For many years to come Dave’s contribution to people’s conservation welfare will be visible on Waikato tracks.

3 responses to Jobs at DOC: Dave Matthews, Ranger

    Warwick Leigh-James 05/05/2016 at 10:18 pm

    Dave I cannot believe that you are retiring well may be to bed every night and that’s about it. We have had some great chats and time spent together over the years and to continue
    Cheers your Australian builder mate Warwick


    Hi Dave, what an awesome tribute to your awesome work 🙂 Hope you and Dianne have a great time together – I’m sure you will keep busy. Best wishes from Palmerston North, Sue Moore.

      Chris Smuts-Kennedy 27/04/2016 at 7:35 pm

      Well done mate. Hey can I borrow your awesome log-splitter?
      Cheers, Smuts