My memories of DOC on day one

Department of Conservation —  04/04/2017

In April DOC is turning 30 and we’re celebrating by looking back through the years. Today Communications Advisor Jose Watson shares her memories of her father working for DOC in 1987…

I was a nine year old kid, living in Hokitika on the West Coast of the South Island in 1987 when DOC was established.

Santa arriving at early DOC Christmas Parties in a helicopter.

One of my favourite childhood memories is of Santa arriving at early DOC Christmas Parties in a helicopter

My dad had a new job as the Regional Conservator for DOC, overseeing the work that people were going to be doing up and down the coast for this newly established government department.

This paddle steamer and the “Rainbow Warrior” swing at Lake Mahinapua.

This paddle steamer and the “Rainbow Warrior” swing at Lake Mahinapua were favourite places for me to play as a kid. Management of areas like these were taken over from Lands and Survey in the 1987 establishment of DOC

I didn’t have much comprehension about exactly what it was that Dad did, but I knew that he was right into historic relics, going for walks in the bush and on the beach, going canoeing, heading out camping and taking me out in the bush to do some trapping of possums.

I got the picture that he was involved with protecting the environment and this involved much talking on the phone, writing letters and reports, meetings, and long days in the office.

As for the start of DOC, my key memories are that Dad bought a suit, because shorts, buller boots and a woolly jumper were no longer appropriate office attire.

Cartoon snippet from the Westland Newsletter, 1 April 1987 of future DOC.

Cartoon snippet from the Westland Newsletter, 1 April 1987 of future DOC

It was an exciting time, with lots of new people coming to Hokitika energised to start work for a government department which was established to look after the things that make New Zealand special. However it was also a time of transition, and the social impacts of the Forest Service, and Lands and Survey shutting up shop were hard felt in a small community. The production forestry side of the Forest Service had been very powerful on the coast, and most people could not see that a government department that would protect and advocate for the environment would ever take root.

Being a kid of someone who worked for DOC here was pretty cool. Lots of interesting people who worked at DOC would visit our house, bringing fresh world views and energy. Hokitika was isolated, and before the internet this brought a sense of worldwide community, fresh DOC faces showing up in town bought all sorts of good things. Today, new faces in our office still bring new perspectives, skills and enthusiasm and help the work we do in conservation evolve.

Michelle Lambert, one of our most recent employees in Hokitika.

We have new faces. Here is Michelle Lambert, one of our most recent employees in Hokitika where she is a Community Ranger. Michelle was born into a world where there was a Department of Conservation, which has to be a good thing!

Fast forward to 2017 and here I am, working at DOC in Hokitika, in my dream job working with great colleagues who are equally as motivated to do good for the environment now as people were 30 years ago. Some of the details about how we work have changed, but the basic premise that we are here to serve the environment and the people of New Zealand has stayed the same, which is why 30 years after DOC hatched I am here!

Jose Watson catching rats on the West Coast.

Me catching rats on the West Coast.

Celebrating 30 years 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 as we step back in time on the DOC website or on Twitter using the hashtag #DOCturns30.

3 responses to My memories of DOC on day one


    What a wonderful way of celebrating the history of the DOC. This is such an interesting read.


    Fantastic – keeping it in the family. Wonderful story and some wonderful memories – thanks for sharing.

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