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There are many reasons why I’m excited about Dulux partnering with DOC to protect New Zealand’s backcountry huts.

Firstly, I’m excited that we have a new partner investing in conservation. As Ecclesiastes says: “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.” In other words, together we can achieve more – and we all want more conservation.

Secondly, as an avid (but amateur) interior decorator and home renovator, I’ve personally been in a relationship with Dulux for years. And while a lot of people don’t love work spilling into their private lives, most of us would agree that it’s pretty great to have the things we enjoy in our private lives spill into work.

Three images: Elizabeth surrounded by her personal collection of Dulux paint pots, an image of Dulux paint pots stacked on top of one another and an image of Elizabeth's collection of paint swatch cards.

A small sample of Dulux from my personal collection. And despite what it looks like, my husband didn’t decapitate me and artfully place my head on our bucket of Dulux Ceiling White!

Thirdly, to celebrate this new partnership, there’s a competition. Winning would be amazing (who wouldn’t want a fabulous, fully hosted wilderness weekend for two in Mt Aspiring National Park?!) but the cool thing is that creating an entry is actually a fun experience in itself – so you really can’t lose! You should have a go:

Head to the Protecting Our Place website, summon your creative genius, paint a DOC hut (virtually of course – none of that annoying real life preparation or messy clean-up), and be in to win.

Tarn Ridge Hut: Photos before painting and after painting.

Tarn Ridge Hut: Some real life before and after photos to inspire you

So, hopefully by now you’re as excited as me about putting the colours of New Zealand to work for conservation!

Protecting our place text with Dulux and DOC logos.

DOC employee and film maker Claudia Babirat.

Claudia Babirat

As part of the Conservation Awards this year, DOC Otago decided to celebrate two major milestones. One – the Department of Conservation turns 25 years old. Two – the amazing contribution the public has made (and is making) to conservation.

We were so inspired by these achievements that we decided to share with them with the rest of the country – the world even! To this end we got documentary filmmaker Claudia Babirat to produce two short videos for the big screen. This is what she has to say:

Ever since I was a little girl, DOC has been like a hero to me. The rangers did amazing things like save wildlife from the brink of extinction, controlled nasty predators, worked as archaeologists. I had a secret dream that one day I too would work for DOC. But wildlife filmmaking and science writing was always my number one passion.

That’s why, when DOC asked me if I wanted to make a couple of films about conservation in Otago (my home province), I jumped at the chance

The first film celebrates the fact that DOC turns 25 years old this year.

One of the things that really impressed me was just how many of the original rangers (i.e. from the establishment in 1987) are still around. They’ve dedicated their lives to conservation, and I think that’s pretty inspirational.

The other thing that struck me was how much of what we take for granted these days, has been the result of DOC’s hard work. For example, popular attractions like the Otago Central Rail Trail, which brings in an estimated $12 million to the province’s communities each year, was actually strongly opposed when its formation was first suggested! We now have conservation parks dedicated to tussock grasslands (as opposed to just forests). Several new species of rare galaxiids (a type of freshwater fish, which includes whitebait) in Otago were discovered as recently as the 1990s. The list goes on.

The second film recognises the fact that it hasn’t just been DOC that has contributed to all of these amazing achievements. In fact, many of them wouldn’t have been possible without the help and dedication of a whole range of people, including passionate individuals and volunteers, community groups, trusts, iwi, local authorities, landowners, and businesses. Each contribute in their own unique way – from fencing off their creek banks to help protect spawning sites for giant kokopu (one of those freshwater galaxiids I mentioned), to building and maintaining predator-proof sanctuaries, to providing sponsorship for long-term protection of precious wildlife such as the jewelled gecko and the takahe.

Producing the second film gave me a lot of hope for New Zealand’s future There are so many people out there who are passionate about conservation in New Zealand, and we can all make a difference.

In fact, I was so inspired that I made my child-hood dream a reality. I now work for DOC Otago as Community Outreach Coordinator – a brand new position aimed at helping more communities take part in conservation and enjoy all the things that make New Zealand the beautiful place it is.