Jobs at DOC: Ollie Harris, Ranger Supervisor

Department of Conservation —  03/06/2016

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 Ollie Harris, Ranger Supervisor (Biodiversity) in Takaka.

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

I work as part of a team of 4-5 people mainly based in the field. Weeds are our bread and butter, but I’m also involved with animal pests, possums, stoats, rats, pigs, and some other work involving snails and whales. I’m also a part of a rope access team focusing on weed control. Most months have a backcountry element. Usually I’m staying in staff quarters, the odd tent. We have great field team and enjoy the backcountry trips away where food is always a highlight. My main role is to support the biodiversity field staff. Our work is very varied, with multiple logistics. Rivers, tides, mountains, snails one week and weeds the next. With Kahurangi, Abel Tasman and Farewell Spit right on our doorstep, our team covers quite a bit of country.

Ollie Harris hunting goats.

Out with the mutt

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Takaka is a small slice of land surrounded by two national parks; pest control is a crucial management tool to protect and enhance these parks.

The best bit about my job is:

Where to start? The folks I work with are great! The amazing compact landscape we have in Golden Bay. Work sites that feel like visiting an old friend. The off track out of the way places. The navigation and adventures we share. Working with folks who really care about what they are doing. Doing work that has real value.

Mt Burnett weed control.

Mt Burnett weed control

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

A few years back I was involved with a kiwi census at Saxon Hut on the Heaphy Track. It was a ten day trip, the hut was a garden shed then so it was living in tents, cooking in the hut. During the day we would catch kiwi with telemetry. At night it was a mad dash through the red tussock and misty wet bogs of the wintery Gouland Downs till early in the morning. A type of rugby scrum to catch birds called in by a sound device. This went on day and night.

Towards the end of the trip on our last night I was standing in position waiting for the call to be made to chase the bird. No kiwis were keen to put on a show so I thought I’d knee down for a bit. Time passed, it was winter and I was in full body armour for working at night. I talked myself into lying down, seemed like a good idea for just a few moments perhaps. Next thing I know I’m surrounded by other staff and they think I’ve got hypothermia! The snoring soon put any worries to rest. Just a quick nap in the wet tussock!

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

Ken Brown taught me heaps in the early years. Weeds, possum, goats and clay pigeons. He’s one of those all rounders that can put his hand to anything and do it well. Cheers Ken you introduced me to all sorts of stuff which I’ve grown to love.

On a personal note…

My happy place is:

After running around the landscape all week, I love to be home for at least one day a week. We’re tucked in the kanukas and totaras in a rabbit warren of a house on the west side of Takaka Valley in the lumpy karst foothills of Kahurangi.

Weed control with the team at Kahurangi Point.

Weed control with the team at Kahurangi Point

My best ever holiday was:

When me and my wife were still getting to know each other we went to Thailand for five months. At that point we were pretty enthusiastic about climbing and caving. We spent several months climbing in the south. The limestone karst landscape is epic. We climbed most of everything in our grade, we spent another six weeks or so in the north, checked out some fantastic caves in another huge block of karst.

I think the best bit was eating out all the time and getting to know each other. It was a great test for our relationship, all that time together and loads of negotiating the plan. A few years later we got married.

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

Every school holidays I religiously take my son out on a tramp somewhere. We are in the planning stage at the moment. When I’m in the hills at work I often want to share that side of my life with him. When I get him out there I think, I’m never going to look back and think I should have done less tramping with him.

On the work front, there’s a big block of time coming up for me in the Northern Abel Tasman. Navigating and cutting open stoat trapping lines. I can wait to get stuck in. Will be great winter work!

Flying stoat trap boxes in the Abel Tasman.

Flying stoat trap boxes in the Abel Tasman

In my spare time:

I love to get out for a day hunt, take some photos and hang out with the dog. Or get stuck into to some land jobs at home.

My hero is:

Steve McQueen

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

“We need the tonic of Wilderness.” – Thoreau

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

There are two types of motor bikers: those who have fallen off and those that will!

Limestone overhangs in Heath Creek, Kahurangi.

Limestone overhangs in Heath Creek, Kahurangi

In work and life I am motivated by:

Family and adventures.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

Get out there Kiwis! We’ve got it all on our back doorstep. It’s right there to enjoy.

3 responses to Jobs at DOC: Ollie Harris, Ranger Supervisor

    Kathryn Smith 11/06/2016 at 7:12 am

    Awesome Ollie – great stories.


    Hello, This is a great job and it’s a adventure work for me. I like it and i love you this type of job. I,m read your bloging it,s a amazing and interesting very nice. Thanks a great full work for you and your team.

    Rodney Bryce McCracken 05/06/2016 at 9:48 pm

    Hi Ollie, man you have a great job. I would love to come down there again and do some fishing up the rivers. .Leith has a real problem with the cold so that calls the tune a lot that we can do, after all shes nearly 80. one day!!!!! regards and love to all 3 of you. – Rod McC.