A day in the life of DOC rangers

Department of Conservation —  31/07/2016

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Today is World Ranger Day, a day to celebrate the amazing things our hundreds of hard-working rangers do across Aotearoa all year round. From all over the country, here’s a snapshot of the wide variety of jobs our rangers do on a daily basis…

7.00am

As dawn breaks, rangers Sian Reynolds and Rose Hanley-Nickolls get ready for a day out in Haast Tokoeka Sanctuary, searching for Haast tokoeka, one of our rarest kiwi. They’re starting the day at Music Creek bivvy up the Arawhata River. “It’s so cold in the biv we can’t decide how to drink our tea,” says Sian.

8.00am

In Mount Taranaki, one of DOC’s only ‘coffee rangers’ is making the first brew of the day. Kirstie Loveridge manages the Kāmahi Café at Egmont National Park Visitor Centre – the only DOC-run café in the country.  “At 945 metres above sea level the café is the highest in Taranaki and has awesome views,” says visitor centre ranger Sorrel Hoskin.

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DOC’s ‘coffee ranger’ Kirstie Loveridge prepares the first brew of the day.

Meanwhile at the Ruapehu Adventure Rides complex, rangers from the Waikato District and Ohakune offices are gearing up for a day of LUV (light utility vehicle) driver training. DOC replaced its quad bike fleet with LUVs in 2015, and safe operation of all vehicles is a high priority for the Department.

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A day of LUV training lies ahead for these Waikato and Ohakune-based staff.

8.30am

Over to Mt Stanley in the Marlborough Sounds, where Leanne Flynn, Aubrey Tai and Bart Mehrtens are starting out on a day of snail monitoring. Mt Stanley is home to one of New Zealand’s native giant land snail species, Powelliphanta hochstetteri obscura. New Zealand is home to at least 21 species and 51 sub-species of Powelliphanta snails, some of which can reach up to 90mm across – the size of a man’s fist!

10.00am

Central Plateau Operations Rangers Ray Packer and Anthony McNamara are hard at work on the Rotopounamu Track in the northern part of the Tongariro National Park. Amelia Willis explains:

“The team went in to clear a windfall on the popular track, and downloaded the track counter data on the way. The track receives an average of around 23,000 visitors annually – mostly families, school groups and tourists on their way to or from the mountains.

“The team also spend time at Rotopounamu working on pest management with volunteer group Project Tongariro. The area has been a focus of pest control for over 10 years through a successful community partnership, and the bird life really shows it! Riflemen and North Island robin are often seen, and the big birds are back – kākā, kererū and kārearea. Numbers have increased so much in the last few years, we even come here for 5-minute bird count training, and it’s really popular with birdwatchers.

“Not today though – the winter weather has kept the visitors away, so they’re in and out and heading back for lunch in no time.”

11.00am

Murupara-based operations ranger Hannah Flatman is finishing up her morning whio monitoring on the Whirinaki River.

“With the help of my whio dog, Pip, we keep an eye on the numbers of pairs found within the Whirinaki whio security site as well as seeing how many of their ducklings survive through to fledge. With the support of Genesis Energy we have almost 1,800 stoat traps protecting these whio, as well as other species, and at a last count we had 64 pairs on the main rivers and large sidestreams.

“Having a whio dog makes a huge difference to work I do every single day as she can find whio hiding in holes under the bank that would be easy to miss. Whio are only active in the early morning and evening so having the dog means we can cover more ground in a day than if I was working alone.”

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Hannah Flatman and Pip keeping an eye on whio on the Whirinaki River.

11.45am

Taranaki-based operations ranger Mayer Levy, along with the rest of the Assets team, has been kept busy rerouting and marking the Taungatara Track on Mt Taranaki after several large tree windfalls fell in the last storm. The Taungatara Track is part of the popular Around the Mountain Circuit, a challenging 4-5 day track for experienced trampers.

12.00pm

Lunchtime arrives, but the work is just beginning for Wellington visitor centre ranger Don Herron, who’s filling in for island ranger Evan Ward on Matiu/Somes Island in Wellington Harbour. Don’s stacking firewood for the houses on the island as part of his duties.

“The sheep always come to check out what’s going on as Evan uses the tractor to feed them,” Don says.

12.30pm

Lunchtime beckons and rangers from DOC’s Hawke’s Bay office are heading out on their bikes for a ride along Napier’s Marine Parade, a new weekly tradition they’ve started. On this particular day the weather isn’t playing ball – but that doesn’t stop the team coming out to pose with their bikes and their new ‘Wild Bunch’ team emblem.

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A ‘Wild Bunch’ of DOC Hawke’s Bay riders.

1.00pm

One of DOC Napier’s newer rangers, Lauren Buchholz, is experiencing her first helicopter ride. She and the Hawke’s Bay Recreation/Historic Services team are heading out on an overnight trip to service Te Puia Hut (Lodge), the district’s most popular backcountry hut.

“I was glued to the window throughout the flight as we soared over cliffs and past the bush-clad mountains lining the Mohaka River gorge. We landed gently right in front of the hut, cutting a three-hour trek down to about five minutes. The trampers who joined us later that evening were a bit envious!”

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East Kaweka Helicopters pilot and owner/operator Chris Chrosse (left) and DOC Recreation/Historic ranger Casey Rhodes at the helicopter landing site in front of Te Puia Hut (Lodge) in Kaweka Forest Park.

1.30pm

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Willie Abel digs out a concrete plinth at Ship Cove in Queen Charlotte Sound.

After lunch, we head over to Queen Charlotte Sound, where Leanne Flynn is supervising Outward Bound volunteers as they install signs and perform some maintenance along Queen Charlotte Track.

Meanwhile, over in Ship Cove, recreation ranger Willie Abel is digging out the concrete plinth around an old carved pou, which has been removed due to wood damage. It will take Willie two days to chip away at the concrete around the old plinth. It’s a beautiful historic spot – Ship Cove was Captain James Cook’s favourite New Zealand base during his three voyages of exploration.

Across the sound, rangers Gus Johnston and Joe Healey are installing a new containment tank at Ratimera Bay campsite, a popular DOC campsite featuring a long, sandy beach.

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Gus and Joe install a new containment tank.

2.00pm

It’s time to check in on DOC’s famous RoyalCam albatross chick, Moana. Ranger Lyndon Perriman makes an appearance at 2pm every Tuesday to weigh the chick and deliver a supplementary feed if required. So far RoyalCam has had 485,000 views on Youtube and over 20,000 comments from keen followers. Moana will stay in the nest until she’s big enough to fledge, around September.

Meanwhile at Waikanae Estuary, biodiversity rangers Emma Rowell and Otis Berard are spending the afternoon spraying marram (Ammophila arenaria) to prepare the area for planting of natives, part of a project to restore the dunes to their natural state.

2.30pm

On the way back from Waikuku Lodge in Aorangi Forest Park, we check in with Masterton-based operations ranger Wiremu Grace, who’s been doing general repairs and maintenance to keep the Lodge in ship-shape condition for future visitors. Aorangi Forest Park lies between Martinborough in the north and Cape Palliser in the south. The Lodge is a converted farmhouse at the northern end of the forest park which can sleep 24 people in communal bunkrooms.

4.00pm

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Ruby with Joe Harawira and Andrew Te Nahu (member of hapu group) at the conclusion of a successful meeting with whanau/hapu of Te Mahia.

Gisborne-based Treaty implementation ranger Ruby Mackey is finishing a meeting with the whanau/hapu of Te Mahia at Ruawharo Marae, Opoutama.

“We have begun a positive relationship with this group which includes the Iwi of Rongomaiwahine. I especially would like to thank  Joe Harawira, Director Strategic Partnerships/Treaty for supporting Operations Manager Gisborne, John Lucas, Senior Ranger, Community Rebecca Lander and myself on this day. It is important that when you meet whanau/hapu/Iwi on occasions such as this, that you take with you someone of the mana of Joe because it is not just his taha Maori you require but his knowledge of the business. No reira Joe tena koe mo to awhina kia matou o te Tairawhiti.”

5.00pm

In Hokitika – Western South Island, biodiversity rangers Antje Wahlberg and Derek Wills, along with senior biodiversity ranger Shane Cross are packing up to go home for the day when a report comes in of a baby whale stranded on the beach south of Hokitika.

“The tide was well on the retreat as the whale was a good 35-40 metres inland from the Tasman Sea; not a good place for such a small seagoing creature. The team placed it on a tarpaulin and sledged it back to the water. The whale had enough energy to propel itself, slowly gaining forward motion. The main concern was the shallow breakwater on the seaward side of the trough, once crossing that it could head into the deep water. As our luck would have it, the baby had that will to survive – job done by 6pm.”

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Returning the baby whale to the water.

5.30pm

At the end of the day, biodiversity rangers Liam Falconer, Johnny Joseph and Aubrey Tai cool off after a long day on the hill clearing gorse and old man’s beard on D’Urville Island. Old man’s beard (Clematis vitalba) is one of the Dirty Dozen weeds targeted as part of the Department’s War On Weeds.

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Cooling off after a day of clearing weeds.

9.00pm

The day is over for most rangers, but in Murupara, Bay of Plenty, the work continues – as biodiversity ranger Sarah Wills heads out with Dave Wills and volunteer Kathleen Torso to monitor bats in the Whirinaki Te Pua-a-Tāne Conservation Park.

“At around 9pm we’re setting up a mist net to catch the bats, then extracting them and their bat fly passengers carefully from the net so we can measure them and fit transmitters to allow us to track them to their roosts.

“Short tailed bats have colonial roosts that can hold over 6,000 bats. We’ll find the roosts over the next couple of days then set up video cameras to count how many bats are using each roost… once we find the area where most of the colonial roosts are (they use several different ones each year) we’ll know where to put the predator control to protect them.”

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The bat monitoring team comes out at night.

5 responses to A day in the life of DOC rangers

  1. 

    I work for a world renowned park system in one of Canada’s provinces and am pleased to see all the great work and equally great recognition that is given to all of your staff and volunteers in New Zealand. Keep it up and I’ll look forward to visiting as many parks as I can when I take a leave and come spend a winter (your summer) in 2017/2018.

  2. 
    Maria Valkenburg 16/08/2016 at 1:02 pm

    Fascinating, if I had my time again, that’s what I would like to do.

  3. 
    Julie Barnes 01/08/2016 at 8:16 am

    My favourite is Hannah and Pip and the whio – also the bats. It is really interesting to get an insight into the vast amount of work carried out everyday by DoC rangers.

  4. 

    Loved reading about the varied work these people do. Thanks rangers.

  5. 

    This is a fascinating account of the work being done!