D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

Department of Conservation —  04/08/2016

By Lou Sanson, Director-General

Conservation contributors – Andy Dennis and Wally Sander

Sadly last week two well-known conservation leaders passed away.

Andy Dennis loved tramping and the wilderness, and shared this through his many books. He passionately advocated for the protection of land and water through campaigns and submissions, contributing to the establishment of the South Westland Heritage Area, Paparoa National Park, Kahurangi National Park, and Horoirangi Marine Reserve. He spent time in Iceland and had a PhD in Old Icelandic Law from Cambridge. Earlier this year Andy was awarded a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) for his services to conservation.

Andy had a wonderful empathy for people and an ability to tell the stories that connected people with the majesty and fragility of our wild places.

Wally Sander started as a park ranger at Egmont National Park in 1957 and went on to become chief ranger at Urewera National Park in 1963 (he led construction of the Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk track). In 1970 he set up Hauraki Gulf Maritime Park before becoming chief ranger for Fiordland National Park in 1975 (he was there at the peak of the venison wars and wapiti debates).

Wally was on the establishment unit for DOC and was our first regional manager for Rotorua, Coromandel and Taupo based in Hamilton. In 1989 he moved to DOC’s head office to oversee our international work in Indonesia.

Many of us worked for or with Wally and he made a huge contribution to National Parks and setting DOC up. His proudest achievement was the legacy he left in Te Urewera.

Planning for significant risk events

I was pleased to participate in a forum for Southland mayors and CEOs concerning Milford rockfall and tsunami hazards, along with Police, Fire Service and Civil Defence, on 22 July in Invercargill.

Sarah Stuart-Black, Director of the Ministry for Civil Defence and Emergency Management, presented on risk scenarios relating to major volcanic and earthquake events relating to the alpine fault. With regard to the alpine fault, DOC has more staff at locations like Haast, Franz Josef, Arthur’s Pass and Aoraki/Mt Cook than any other Government agency.

The alpine fault fails around once every 300 years and we are getting close to 300 years since its last failure (a moderate to high likelihood of failure).

Sarah and I will be working with local government and other emergency management agencies to ensure we are actively considering emergency scenarios in the event of DOC staff needing to respond at some of New Zealand’s more remote locations.

We have recently taken all the DOC senior leadership team through Critical Incident Management (CIMS) training and are planning to do CIMS training for all our Directors and Managers and specific site scenarios.

DOC Operations Director (Southern South Island) Allan Munn, Chair of Environment Southland Ali Timms, Director MCDEM Sarah Stuart-Black.

DOC Operations Director (Southern South Island) Allan Munn, Chair of Environment Southland Ali Timms, Director MCDEM Sarah Stuart-Black

Helping our Pacific neighbours in conservation

Last month Ken Bradley (senior ranger in Te Anau) worked in Apia, Samoa to train local parks staff in high quality track construction that can cope with increasing tropical rainfall events.

He and a local team rerouted the track above Apia to Robert Louis Stevenson’s gravesite – the most popular short walk in Samoa.

As D-G, I very much want to prioritise our international effort on helping our Pacific neighbours, particularly given our culture evolved from the Pacific and as world leaders in conservation it seems appropriate we contribute our skills and knowledge base.

Mervyn English and I have been working with Jonathan Kings, Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s International Development Group, on how DOC contributes best to the Government’s ‘Pacific Framework of Engagement’ to help build a whole Government programme of assistance.

Clearly we will see more projects like Ken Bradley’s in Apia. The optimum areas we will develop further will be staff exchanges, biosecurity, invasive species and island eradication projects.

Ken Bradley’s team of rangers in Samoa construct the new track above Apia.

Ken Bradley’s team of rangers in Samoa construct the new track above Apia

The Nature Conservancy sets up in New Zealand

Last week Hilary Aikman and Rosemary Miller led a workshop with 25 key players in New Zealand freshwater restoration to introduce the newly established operation of The Nature Conservancy in New Zealand.

Michael Looker will be the inaugural New Zealand director. TNC’s Director of Water (North America) Michael Reuter came out from the USA and presented on TNC’s work on river restoration in the United States. TNC has agreed to partner with others to place a focus on three key areas in conservation:

• Freshwater restoration
• Marine ecosystems
• Pacific conservation

TNC has 1 million members internationally and is the largest philanthropic conservation organisation in the world with an annual budget of USD $1 billion

This initiative resulted from a meeting with Minister Barry, Kay Booth and myself at the World Parks Forum in Sydney in November 2013.

At the freshwater forum with The Nature Conservancy: DOC Freshwater Manager Rosemary Miller, TNC New Zealand Director Michael Looker, DOC Director (Aquatic) Hilary Aikman, Michael Reuter.

At the freshwater forum with The Nature Conservancy: DOC Freshwater Manager Rosemary Miller, TNC New Zealand Director Michael Looker, DOC Director (Aquatic) Hilary Aikman, Michael Reuter

Michael will be based on our Wellington office initially while he sets up the TNC in New Zealand. He will be looking to partnership models to build capacity across New Zealand and to help build funding for other NGOs as well.

With their freshwater and marine focus, the TNC hope to learn and expand their learnings to other parts of the world.

8 responses to D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

    John Nankervis 23/08/2016 at 7:36 pm

    Andy Dennis, truly an inspiring conservationist. I remember an impassioned presentation of his at Lake Rotoiti about commercialism in protected lands, a topic that has certainly not lost its relevance. Thanks Lou for a fine appreciation of him.

    Bill Mannix 16/08/2016 at 3:25 pm

    Very sorry to learn of Wally’s passing. He was my Chief Ranger at Fiordland National Park when I was based at Clifden at the southern region of the park. A ranger’s ranger! Thanks Lou.

    Wynston Cooper 16/08/2016 at 2:31 pm

    So sorry to hear of Wally’s death. I really enjoyed working with him in our roles as Chief Ranger and Executive Officer respectively with the (then) Fiordland National Park Board. The passing of yet another from that era.


    Nice comments on Wally, enjoyed working with him.

    Jock and John W.


    Good to see the work of Wally & Andy acknowledged in your blog. In the era we live in now the contribution of passing generations to our parks & conservation in NZ is easily overlooked. Thanks Lou.

    Michele Ayres 16/08/2016 at 10:02 am

    Good to hear what’s happening – thanks

    Dave Bamford 04/08/2016 at 9:36 pm

    Nice, interesting blogs. Thanks. – Dave Bamford.