D-G Direct: An update from Lou Sanson

Department of Conservation —  13/04/2017

By Lou Sanson, Director-General

DOC ranked #3 in Public Sector Reputation Index

Colmar Brunton has recently released the 2017 Public Sector Reputation Index, which benchmarks 39 public sector organisations on four categories relating to their reputation – leadership and success, social responsibility, trust, and fairness.

2,000 online interviews are conducted with participants from all over the country, to calculate the ‘Rep Z’ score of each agency.

DOC has come in third with a reputation score of 110. Leading the pack is the Fire Service with a score of 129, and Maritime New Zealand with 111.

This is a great example of the power of the DOC reputation and brand. We are really proud of what this says about DOC, the work we do, and those who are out there representing us in everyday.

DOC turns 30

Sincere thanks to all of our staff for the fantastic work they have done to organise more than 40 events around the country celebrating DOC’s 30th anniversary. With partners, Treaty Partners and communities involved, they paid a wonderful tribute to the very significant achievements we have made for New Zealand’s natural environment over the past years.

Celebrating DOC’s Birthday at my place.

Celebrating DOC’s Birthday at my place

One of my highlights was bringing together many former Conservation Ministers, Directors-General and senior leaders from DOC for a celebration held on Saturday 1 April. We also had a great turnout from the NGO community that was so active in helping establish DOC in 1987.

Our Community Partnerships Manager, Annie Wheeler, cut the Wellington birthday cake in recognition of her role organising New Zealand’s biggest ever petition to stop the logging of South Westland rainforests – it gathered 360,00 signatures.

Staff around the country have celebrated in many ways but possibly my favourite is this ‘tribute’ to an old pic of mine, which was taken when DOC began in 1987. This montage comes from the Rakiura/Stewart Island team.

A tribute to Lou’s ‘day one at DOC’ photo.

A tribute to Lou’s ‘day one at DOC’ photo

Ngahere Gecko Release – Mana Island

Recently I visited Mana Island with Friends of Mana Island (FOMI), Ngāti Toa, Taranaki Whānui, Wellington Zoo, EcoGecko and staff of GBC Winstone. The purpose of the visit was to translocate 8 Ngahere Geckos from development areas at GBC Winstone’s Belmont Quarry across to Mana Island. This was the second batch of Ngahere Geckos, with 28 transferred previously. The day was organised by Winstone as their part of restoring New Zealand’s nature.

I was fascinated to see the work of volunteers, especially FOMI, who over the past 20 years have raised $3 million and have achieved one of the biggest volunteer island restoration programmes in the world. They have planted half a million trees, eradicated all mice – using ground trapping and now have 52 species of New Zealand birds as well as Cook Strait Giant Weta – the worlds heaviest insect.

Mana island was New Zealand’s first commercial sheep farm, of critical importance to Iwi and is a remarkable story of DOC, conservation volunteers and Iwi working together.

With Kyla Kamana, 7 of Wainuiomata (Taranaki Whanui ), Mark McKenzie GBC Winstone, and Brian Bell Friends of Mana Island (FOMI).

With Kyla Kamana, 7 of Wainuiomata (Taranaki Whanui ), Mark McKenzie GBC Winstone, and Brian Bell Friends of Mana Island (FOMI)

Eco Gecko – experts in lizard translocations

On Mana Island, I met Trent Bell and Asha Fernandez who work at Eco Gecko. Trent established Eco Gecko as a specialised agency to assist in resource management and lizard translocations.

Trent fell in love with geckos as an 11-year-old and went on to become a herpetologist at Landcare Research before setting up his own company focused on New Zealand’s 104 species of lizards, of which 75% are threatened.

It’s great to see the work they’re doing to provide expert advice for lizard translocations in many parts of the country.

Nathan Rei, from Ngāti Toa, Trent Bell and Asha Fernandez from Eco Gecko on Mana Island.

Nathan Rei, from Ngāti Toa, Trent Bell and Asha Fernandez from Eco Gecko on Mana Island

Celebrating the conservation of significant wetlands in China

Last week, I attended an Auckland luncheon held for Li Keqiang, Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

This was a great time to celebrate some remarkable conservation work being done by the New Zealand and Chinese governments, such as the protection of the Luannan wetlands in the Bohai Gulf of the Yellow Sea. This project is a result of years of citizen science by our partners at Pukorokoro Miranda Naturalists Trust, support from diplomats at MFAT and our own science team (Bruce McKinlay).

The wetlands are an essential stopover and feeding ground for red knots and bar-tailed godwits after they leave New Zealand in late March and head for their breeding grounds in Arctic Russia and Alaska.

A red knot on the Manawatu Estuary. Photo: Eric de Leeuw.

A red knot on the Manawatu Estuary. Photo: Eric de Leeuw

With funding from Fonterra through the Living Waters project, and the assistance of MFAT, a contingent from DOC and Ngati Paoa met with officials and a number of Chinese government agencies in late 2015. We have been able to work with the Hebei Province Government to have the Luannan wetlands protected. The Provincial Government has announced its intention to create a reserve and we’re looking for opportunities to support them, and our partners here and in China, to make this a success.

In February, China has tentatively added 14 coastal sites, including the Luannan wetlands, to a list of sites to be considered for World Heritage status. Two of these are critical for New Zealand’s migratory waders.

Premier Li’s visit was a fantastic opportunity to recognise these significant conservation achievements.

Carol West looking at red knots on the Luannan wetlands. Photo: Bruce McKinlay.

Carol West looking at red knots on the Luannan wetlands. Photo: Bruce McKinlay

Acknowledging Sir Mark Solomon

Our Deputy Director-General Operations and I were proud to represent DOC at the farewell for Sir Mark Solomon, who is stepping down as Kaiwhakahaere (Chairman) of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu. Over the past 14 years he has led Ngāi Tahu on some significant conservation achievements, including Te Korowai o Te Tai ō Marokura (Kaikoura Marine Strategy), the Molesworth Steering Committee, and introducing a totally new approach to management planning with DOC. His knowledge and love of Te Wai Pounamu and his ability to build collaborative processes has been outstanding.

Sandra Cook, Mark Solomon, and Mike Slater.

Sandra Cook, Mark Solomon, and Mike Slater

Myrtle rust discovered on Raoul Island

Last week we confirmed that the fungal plant disease, myrtle rust, has been found on pōhutukawa trees on Raoul Island. MPI has led the response, quickly setting up an incident management team. If it spreads to our shores, it would be a tragedy for our precious stands of pōhutukawa, rata and manuka.

The disease has had a brutal effect on metrosideros forests in Hawaii and Australia. We are working closely with MPI on a join operation to understand its impact so far on Raoul Island and to identify the best way of minimising or eradicating myrtle rust.

Sanfords Ltd stand by skipper’s decision to release dolphin

I would like to applaud Sanford Limited and CEO Volker Kuntzsch, who are standing by the decision of the skipper of the fishing vessel ‘San Columbia’ to release an entire catch of 30 tonnes of jack mackerel after six dolphins swam into the net off the Tauranga coast.

Sanford have supported the skipper and his decision, which is a great sign of a leader in the New Zealand fishing industry really transforming their approach to model new ways of working in our oceans.

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

    Selwyn June 20/04/2017 at 8:42 am

    Annie Wheeler’s petition was the Maruia Declaration which aimed to protect native forests from logging throughout NZ (yes they were logging and burning off native forest on crown owned land in those days). One part of the petition promoted the idea of a nature conservancy, a unified body to look after all conservation land. Guess what happened to this idea.

    Colin Ryder 19/04/2017 at 4:35 pm

    Pleased to see your account of your trip to Mana Island. It should be pointed out, however, that Forest and Bird provided most of the volunteer input for the first ten years before FOMI was established, and merits some credit for its contributions Fair to say, though, that FOMI have done a fantastic job since.


    Thank you for this report. I was on the Te Tai Tokerau Conservation Board for a term when Sandra Lee was the Minister. It was amazing time. I belonged to the Maori Women’s Welfare League, and I did preservation of flora and fauna and received a national award for it with my volunteers. The work is still ongoing up in the north for preservation of Pingao and Toheroa. We are witnessing amazing renewal sights on our beaches after intensive reseeding from Dargaville to Ninety Mile Beach. This is the story I’d like to share to you all. Happy birthday Te Papa Atawhai.