Archives For community

The Green Ribbon Awards recognise outstanding contributions to protect and manage New Zealand’s environment. Entries for this year’s awards are now open.

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Don Herron shares the story of a community-run initiative in Plimmerton which has been working to make their suburb pest free.

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Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we profile Rebecca Rush, Community Ranger in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.

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Earlier this month DOC and Fonterra held a community open day to celebrate the Living Water partnership in Hikurangi, Northland.

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Sandy and Robin Toy work with Friends of Flora in Kahurangi National Park. Their job is to manage the programme to re-establish a sustainable population of great spotted kiwi/roroa into the Flora Stream catchment area.

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By Mark Menzies, Waikato Services Ranger

We know it as the Hakarimata Summit Track, but fitness nuts in the region call it The Huks! It’s one of the Waikato’s best outdoor gyms and much-loved by the local community.

From Brownlee Avenue, in Ngaruawahia, it’s 335 metre climb to the summit of the Hakarimata Range—with 1,349 steps in between.

View from the Hakarimata Summit Tower.

View from the Hakarimata Summit Tower

The summit view tower, at 374 metres above sea level, has amazing views of the Waikato Basin and down to Ruapehu on a clear day.

The track meets the Hakarimata Walkway and is also part of the Te Araroa Trail.

Upgraded in 2012, from a slippery die-hard trampers track to a walking track, the Hakarimata Summit Track now attracts over 50,000 people a year (and growing).

It sounds fantastic, and it is, but with all those walkers, the wear and tear of the steps and track sets in. So, how do you maintain and carry gravel up 1,349 steps?

Stairs up to the Hakarimata Summit.

Hakarimata Summit Track stair section

In steps Reg Hohaia, a local who started a fitness campaign after undergoing a hip replacement, walking the track every day—sometimes two or three times a day.

Reggie inspired others; he encouraged and pushed them to try the track. First by going quarter of the way up, then half the way up and, finally, with a big high five, laughter and cheer, they are standing on the summit of the Hakarimata Range.

Reg Hohaia at the summit of Hakarimata.

Reg Hohaia—the MAN

Reggie started doing a few jobs on the track: cleaning off graffiti, clearing a bit of vegetation, that sort of thing. Then he asked for a pile of track gravel to be left at the entrance!

The end result is a wonderful community partnership; a track that is maintained and looks fantastic; people exercising, saving the health board thousands; and happy DOC rangers thinking “where is the next spot this can work?” “where do we find another Reggie?”

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.