Celebrating 30 years of DOC

Department of Conservation —  31/03/2017

Thirty years ago on, 1 April 1987, DOC was born. It was a national declaration that our country valued its nature and wild places, and that we were committed to protecting it for future generations.

30 years of DOC. Photo: Rob Brown ©.

30 years of DOC. Photo: Rob Brown ©

30 years of DOC

On 1 April 1987 the Department of Conservation was launched by Prime Minister David Lange in Wellington.

Over 1800 staff were drawn together from the New Zealand Forest Service and Department of Lands and Survey, and the smaller Wildlife Service, Historic Places Trust and other government agencies.

New Zealand became one of the first Governments in the world to group all of its conservation functions into one organisation, with a clear mandate to protect and restore unique places, flora and fauna.

Over the last 30 years DOC has built on the successes of our predecessors and continued to grow conservation by working in partnership with New Zealanders.

Take a look at our past celebrations of 20 years and 25 years of DOC.

Trampers, West Matukituki Valley, December 1987.

Trampers, West Matukituki Valley, December 1987

Sharing our stories

To mark this anniversary, we wanted to celebrate our history, our people and our nature on social media.

For every one of the 30 days in April we will celebrate a year of DOC’s existence by sharing photos and stories from that particular year, starting tomorrow with 1987 — the first year of DOC.

Join us as we take a step back in time to remember the history and achievements from 30 years of conservation. Follow along on the DOC website or on Twitter using the hashtag #DOCturns30.

Common dolphins. Photo: Terry Greene.

Common dolphins. Photo: Terry Greene

10 responses to Celebrating 30 years of DOC


    We love you, DOC! Thank you for all the amazing work you have done over the years 🙂


    Happy Birthday DOC.

    I was at Campbell Island with the Met Service when this happened, and after my year with them was hired by DOC for the year Oct 1987 to October 1988 alongside Peter Moore of DOC Wellington for the first science team to spend a full year there studying many of the different species of wildlife and flora on the island. What a GREAT year that was.


    I wonder how much of the story of conservation photos tell. So much is so rarely seen.

    Here in Kaikoura it seems that many aspects are under threat, as many different pressures add up. Hutton’s Shearwaters, as one example, have been reduced from about 10 colonies in the 60s to only two remaining wild colonies. Both of those sustained major impact from the November 14th earthquake. 20-30 % of the land containing their burrows is now in various valley floors as rubble awaiting transport by a sufficient volume of rain. Only one day of survey by 2 people has been considered sufficiently safe. 100 burrows that were marketed as active last year, and seemed from aerial photos to be in an areas largely unaffected by the quake, were inspected, 36 had collapsed. and only 1 chick was observed in residence. Losing a year’s chicks might not be a big deal, but losing 20-40% of adults, and a lessening of the natural defenses that have protected those colonies from predators, could be a very big deal.

    We also have rare plants, skinks, gekos, weta, etc…..

    Local DOC have been great, and the systems around health and safety do not make it easy for experienced competent individuals to make judgments about the levels of risk that they feel competent to assess and to take on.

    The lack of money for pest control is almost as bad as the lack for predator control.

    Vast areas of the high country were deliberately seeded with pine and elder for “stabilisation” purposes. An experiment gone horribly wrong.

    So yeah, great to have DOC, and they need a lot more resources to get people on the ground taking action. And learning the competencies necessary has very little to do with passing exams, and almost everything to do with practical experience, and a dogged determination to get out there and make a difference.

    Catherine Wallace 31/03/2017 at 12:45 pm

    Excellent idea Joyce. Thanks to all at DoC and those who have worked there over the 30 years since DoC was established. We should also recognise the environmental groups, officials and politicians who brought DoC into existence with such promise of a strong conservation agency with practical skills and an advocacy for conservation role. The groups who worked to have DoC established included ECO, Forest and Bird, Maruia Society, Federated Mountain Clubs and others. DoC was designed to be a strong force for conservation. We did not envisage that it would become so welcoming to miners and that conservation groups would be struggling to be heard over the commercial focus of DoC or that so many of the science and technical people would be lost.

    Time to go back to conservation and to again press for better funding.
    Cath Wallace


    I agree with Joyce.

    Joyce Birdsall 31/03/2017 at 9:26 am

    It would be interesting to see comparable shots of the areas you feature – 1987 and how they look today. Has the natural environment improved or deteriorated in that time?


      Thanks Joyce, we will be sharing a few photos comparing our past work with that of today on Instagram.

      I’ll also forward your idea on to our science and biodiversity teams to see if these types of comparisons are something we would be able to put together to share on the blog in the future.

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