Muscles: the legend of the practical field ranger

Department of Conservation —  23/02/2017

By Anna Elwarth, Community Ranger

Ian “Muscles” Read recently retired after working for DOC since 1987 — and a combined 52 years of state service.

Ian "Muscles" Read.

Ian “Muscles” Read

At 72 his body is giving him the messages to retire, but his mind (driven for ‘getting stuff done’) is still catching up with the idea.

Ian is a man with an array of practical skills. The legend goes that he can achieve in four hours what other rangers would achieve in six.

Fire training.

Fire training

Colleague Jimmy Johnson explains: “He has a drive to get stuff done with incredible input and enthusiasm.”

Ian is the last standing of the ‘three amigos’, ‘the field guys’ with retired colleagues Barry Hannah and Allan Rainer.

Barry was the one who nicknamed Ian “Muscles”, as when something in the field was declared not possible to achieve, Ian would pipe up “I’ll do it”.

Ian led many bio and rec jobs over the years. He is a fire crew leader, pump operator and fire engine driver, where, in his words, “I’ve seen enough fires”.

He also carries the local name ‘The Mower Man’.

The Mower Man.

The Mower Man

In recent times, he was a driving force behind the practicalities of building a whio aviary for the hardening facility at the Tongariro National Trout Centre.

A favourite project was his involvement in the biannual Kaimanawa Wild Horse muster.

He is ‘world famous’ in Turangi and has a large knowledge of the area. He knows a lot about the access points, vegetation and weeds.

Chainsaw work.

Chainsaw work

More evidence to Ian’s enthusiasm, Jimmy explains he will even come in on his days off to let the team know how things are best done.

“We are trying to glean this knowledge from him before he leaves”.

Muscles is a great mentor. He would give time to the younger rangers who would first show him their worth.

In the last four years he has worked with a Department of Corrections initiative where rehabilitating inmates from Rangipo prison are assisting DOC with tracks and predator work.

The inmates held Ian’s mana in such high regard that as a leaving gift they have carved him a walking stick featuring two stags and trout – icons and taonga of the Turangi area.

Overseeing the whio aviary build.

Overseeing the whio aviary build

Ian’s 52 years state service started in the early 1960s in the Pest Destruction Board and NZ Army.

This was followed by 20 years working for the Ministry of Works on local power developments – Tongariro, Mangakino and Matahina – as a crew boss, tunneller and rigger.

He worked as a labourer and leading hand for the Forest Service between projects before DOC was born.

His rigging skills are said to have transferred well to building DOC bridges!

Bridge work.

Bridge work

His volunteer service carries similarly impressive records.

Ian volunteered for the Turangi St John ambulance for 40 years, being promoted to ‘Officer of the Order of St John’ in 2007.

He has also given 10 years to search and rescue.

Turangi Operations Manager Dave Lumley who has known Ian since pre-DOC-days says he and others will miss their workmate.

“He has continued to provide inspiration to younger up and coming colleagues, and will be sorely missed in the team for his enthusiasm and local knowledge. At 72 he has worked well past retirement age and I’m glad for his sake that he has finally retired while he is still fit and able.” – Dave Lumley

Ian is already committing himself to voluntary conservation work – helping with a national biodiversity seed rain project at Paengaroa and a predator trapping line or two at Rotopounamu with community conservation group Project Tongariro.

Overseeing the whio aviary build.

Overseeing the whio aviary build

There will also be a fair amount of sea fishing!

These practical legends are leaving DOC with the next generation racing after them with a pen and paper, and hopefully with the drive to fill the big boots, and weight training to lift the big loads.

We know we’ll be seeing you in the workshop for a cuppa Muscles!

Sharing a cuppa with colleagues in a DOC hut.

Sharing a cuppa with colleagues in a DOC hut

One response to Muscles: the legend of the practical field ranger

    Andrew Nichols 24/02/2017 at 12:25 pm

    What a legend!