From Ranger to Builder on the West Coast

Department of Conservation —  21/07/2022

A Hokitika ranger has become the first person to complete a building apprenticeship with DOC 🔨. Miquel Dijkstra works with Nigel Schroder in DOC’s Western South Island Regional Building Team.

Miquel at the Hokitika workshop

Originally from the Wairarapa, Miquel landed a job with DOC Hokitika after completing the trainee ranger programme in Nelson.

He says getting into building work with DOC was something of a happy coincidence. 

“They needed someone to help with building work, so I started out as a hammer hand and learnt skills on the job with Nigel and another builder who was with the team. 

“I was encouraged to do an apprenticeship but I wasn’t ready to commit to a permanent job at that stage as I had other things I wanted to do.”

One of those things was spending a year walking the length of the country with his partner on the Te Araroa Trail.

“After the trail I reapplied for work in Hokitika and, as they hadn’t found a permanent replacement for my job, I got it back.”

He was apprenticed to Nigel, who’s the Project Lead Heritage and Visitors at the Hokitika workshops.

Miquel (right) with Nigel Schroder drilling rock for the Paparoa Track Great Walk Emergency Shelter foundations

As part of the apprenticeship Miquel put in time poring over the books at home.

“A BCITO assessor came over from Christchurch once every two months to check on me.

“Because DOC doesn’t build residential houses there were certain unit standards where I had to go and work with other builders in Hokitika and Greymouth to tick off skills I needed to complete the apprenticeship like concrete slabs and hip rooves.”

Miquel loves his role.

“I’ve got to do the job I wanted to do and at the same time get a qualification.

“If you’re working with a builder in town the variety isn’t always there. If you’re building something in the backcountry you’ve got to fly in what you need so you have to be organised in a different way. It’s a whole different field of work.

“I enjoy building something for the public. It’s great when someone talks about a back country structure you’ve worked on. When you are onsite people sometimes walk past and praise the work, so it makes you realise that people appreciate what you’re doing.”

Since starting work with DOC, Miquel has worked the length and breadth of the Western South Island from Ōparara in the north to the Landsborough Valley in the south.

This has included timber bridges on the Copland Track, upgrading work at Hokitika Gorge, the toilet block at Lake Paringa campsite, Mirror Tarn viewing platform at Ōparara and the recently completed emergency shelter on the Paparoa Track.

The completed emergency shelter halfway between Te Whare Atarau/Moonlight Hut and Pororari Hut at the top of the Escarpment on the Paparoa Track

Miquel has recently been certified as a Licenced Building Practitioner (LPB).

Hokitika Operations Manager Owen Kilgour says Miquel has shown great dedication and hard work in completing his apprenticeship and LBP.

Hokitika district hosts other regional resources such as the hunting team and freshwater and marine reserve rangers, as well as the building team.

Engineering Manager Jono Calder and Engineer Jason Davidson are big fans of the Western South Island building team.

“Nigel and Miquel are an awesome team. They always produce excellent quality work and as engineers, we know we rely on them without needing intensive monitoring

“It’s great to be developing these skills in house. These guys have a real sense of ownership over the work they do.

“We know from experience that having a building team like this on staff saves project management time and money.”

Due to the success of the model, we’re now looking at setting up additional regional building teams in other parts of the country.

One response to From Ranger to Builder on the West Coast


    Fabulous, congratulations on qualifying. Training is an investment not a cost, like quality management and Conserving our natural biodiversity, reserving is to re – serve.