Archives For DOC staff

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Mana Gemmell, Ranger, Visitor Assets in Opotiki.

Mana and Rooster with a hot drink in the bush near Te Waiti Hut.

Mana, right, and Rooster (former DOC staff member) at Te Waiti Hut in 2009

At work

Name: Irimana (Mana) Gemmell
Position: Ranger, Visitor Assets – Pakihi Cycle track cutter
Office: Opotiki Base

Some things I do in my job include … Improvising, using initiative, lateral thinking with minimal resources, and strategic planning.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by … minimising costs budget wise, and using resources at a minimal cost to DOC.

The best bit about my job is … working unsupervised and independently.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is … spending quality time with my son, passing on the skills I possess, including the above.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is … Pete Livingstone – we have an understanding that stems back some 30 years.

Gisborne/Whakatane DOC staff on their bikes near the Pakihi Track.

Gisborne/Whakatane staff area team ride of the newly formed National Cycleway Pakihi Track

On a personal note

If I could trade places with any other person for a week – famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional – it would be … Hone Harawira – Mana Party!

My best ever holiday was … visiting whanau with our son in Wairoa.

My greatest sporting moment was when … my moko won the soccer trophy for outstanding player of the year.

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is … my other moko passing her mid-term exam and cracking all her units with excellence and merit.

Mana and son Ben on the back of a truck at Tauranga Bridge.

Mana and son Ben after load testing Tauranga Bridge

If I could be any NZ native species I’d be … a tuatara.

My secret indulgence is … got none. Open and above board.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to … train as a ranger. I believe I already have the skills, experience and capabilities.

Before working at DOC I … worked with youth and correction referrals, youth justice, and schools.

My favourite quote is … “Aroha ki te tangata”.

Mana and helpers assessing a slip on the Nikau Flat Track.

Mana, Dave Lynn and two volunteers assessing the slip on the Nikau Flat Track

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is … be true to yourself and do well by your fellow man.

In work and life I am motivated by … whanau. To aspire to the best of my abilities in all that I do as an example and role model.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is … our land (Papatuanuku) and the environment is precious. Take care of it. “The land owns us – we don’t own the land”.

Opotiki staff at Rotorua Zip Lining.

Opotiki staff social fun day at Rotorua Zip Lining – Mana on far right

Question of the week

Which actor would you pick to play you in a movie about your life? Bruce Willis or Temuera Morrison. Someone who doesn’t muck around – someone who gets in and gets the job done.

Mana on the phone at the Opitiki Base Office.

What do you mean you want to borrow the Cormidi?

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).

Today we profile Ashley Mudford – Chief Information Officer.

Ashley having fun dressing up in his renaissance outfit.

Ashley having fun dressing up in his renaissance outfit

At work

Some things I do in my job include…

My job is about change—helping people to see how use of new tools can help them make a difference to how they work and enable people to be much more productive and effective. To do this means that I am involved in lots of meetings, doing a lot of listening, asking questions, connecting people together, and developing ideas on ‘how could things be better?’.

The best bit about my job is…

Seeing people’s eyes light up when they understand. This is about their having an ‘aha’ moment where they see how things can be different and that they wish to make that difference.

The awesome-est DOC moment I’ve had so far is…

Being on the 4th floor for the 25th anniversary of DOC, seeing the number of people who admitted to being here since it started, and seeing them being recognised for their contributions.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

There is no single answer as there are so many people who keep me enthused or inspired. Probably the person who most inspires me is my Personal Assistant, Jo Winter—I am continually amazed at her ability to get complex and competing stuff done quietly behind the scenes, with little fuss, and she still has the energy to tease me.

The Great Wall at Badaling (near Beijing).

Ashley cites his time travelling around Beijing as one of his favourite holidays. This image shows the Great Wall at Badaling (near Beijing)

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is…

Well… I don’t choose songs to cheer me up, they are used to help my thinking or doing stuff, such as Pink Floyd; Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac; Eric Clapton; Beatles (and other 60s & 70s musicians); Phantom of the Opera; John Williams (guitarist); Beethoven; Ella Fitzgerald; George Gershwin; Jessica Molaskey; Leonard Cohen; Madeleine Peyroux… the list goes on….

Before working at DOC I…

Started my career as a teacher, eventually working with disruptive adolescents in Social Welfare homes and people in prisons. This led me to be responsible for the New Zealand correctional education service, which involved fundamentally changing the delivery model at a time of significant political change. From here I led a significant change programme in prisons following from a Ministerial Committee of Inquiry, and eventually became responsible for the prison service Head Office. After lots of disruption I created my own organisational development business in project management and business analysis. This led me to DOC the first time (after Cave Creek). I then became responsible for developing a world leading programme for data exchange between New Zealand and importing countries about export agricultural products. When the Food Safety Authority was created, I became their Chief Information Officer.

My stomping ground is…

I spent a number of years in various places in Taranaki, but also lived in North Auckland, Waikato, South Canterbury, Christchurch and now Wellington. The most influential place for me was working on a farm outside of Kaponga (Taranaki).

If I could trade places with any other person for a week—famous or not famous, living or dead, real or fictional—it would be…

I do not want to trade places with anyone. I’m very happy being me (well most of the time! I’m not happy with myself when I get grumpy, then I’d certainly like to be someone else).

Ashley and Susan at dawn in the Sahara riding a camel after spending the night in a Bedouin tent.

Ashley and Susan at dawn in the Sahara riding a camel after spending the night in a Bedouin tent

My best ever holiday was…

Pakawau in the early 1980s. It was the first time that I learned how to relax on a holiday. Then again… driving 2500 miles in a Mustang convertible with the Beach Boys blaring out around California; or travelling over the Atlas mountains (Morocco) and travelling a camel into the desert is pretty awesome; or being in Rome at the same time as Pope John Paul II’s funeral; or being with my wife when she fell in love with Van Gogh’s ‘Irises’ at The Getty; or travelling around Beijing (including the Great Wall); or Taipei; or Istanbul; or flying over the Gobi desert at dawn; or travelling through South Africa; or spending time on the Masai Mara in Kenya; or wandering around St Paul be Vence (outside Nice in France); or attending the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in San Bernadino. I don’t think I can say I’ve had one best ever, I’ve been very fortunate in having lots….

In my spare time I…

Spend a lot of time working on renovating our Victorian villa, playing with computers, watching movies, catching up with neighbours, and cooking for occasions.

Restoring our house has been a hobby for the last 25 years and now we are updating stuff which we did 25 years ago. Renovating our villa is a significant part of our contribution to conservation.

Ashley's Mt Victoria villa: 1910, 1988 and 2010.

Ashley’s Mt Victoria villa: 1910, 1988 and 2010

My secret indulgence is…

A really good Port—or then again it could be trying boutique beers… or then again, maybe its creating occasions such as taking Susan in a 1950’s Rolls Royce over the Rimutaka Hills for lunch for her birthday….

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…

My job is to make your job easier, but if you don’t help me, I can’t help you.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is…

From a friend who helped me through a difficult teenage period: Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference…and sometimes this can be hard!

In work and life I am motivated by…

Trying to enable the world to be a better place to live—this is at the economic, environmental and social levels.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…

Ask yourself the question: ‘What environment do you want your great grandchildren to inherit?’. This should then drive your actions.

Question of the week…

What would you name a story about your life?

The Difference.

Every Friday Jobs at DOC will take you behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation.

Today we profile Gabriela Gomez Fell.

With John Adams, ex DOC and Wildlife Service legend, at our end of the year volunteer BBQ

At work…

Position: Community Relations Ranger – Hawke’s Bay.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I organise and run events, manage volunteers, give talks, participate in our education programmes, produce our newsletter, work with the media, do a bit of web management, mmm… what else… coordinate the odd poster and pamphlet, work with the council, groups and other agencies on different projects; basically anything that has to do with the public and getting them informed/involved. Also, I occasionally get to go out in the field and I am part of a very successful catering service run by the Community Relations team = )

Playing a food web game with school children

What is the best part about your job?

Getting to see people’s faces when they learn something they didn’t know about, and working with people that like to get up in the morning to go to work.

Walk and talk to the Cape Sanctuary - waiting in line to feed Cooks Petrels

What led you to your role in DOC?

Since I arrived in New Zealand I’ve explored different areas of public conservation land, and thought DOC did a pretty good job looking after it. I was curious to see how they did it and wanted to be a part of it.

What was the highlight of your month just gone?

I got to interview students that participated in one of our education programmes years ago to see if the programme was working and if they remembered anything; they did. They remembered so much more than what I was expecting. It was a wonderful feeling to know that what we do actually does make a difference and that the messages we are putting across are being remembered.  

With Bryan Welch measuring a stranded whale

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My family (my husband and my family back in my home land and around the globe)
  2. Mountains (particularly in winter)
  3. Spending time outdoors (walking, taking photos, cross country skiing, cycling, kayaking, hiking and swimming)

    With most of my family on our wedding day just over a year ago

Three pet peeves

  1. Disrespectful people
  2. Ants in my pantry

Three foods

  1. Freshly picked summer fruit
  2. A good salad with fresh herbs
  3. Grandma’s baking

    Valle Frances, one of the most beautiful places from home

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Fiordland (so peaceful, beautiful and similar to home)
  2. Wanaka (great atmosphere, close to Snowfarm, wonderful lake and mountains to play in)
  3. The Coromandel (particularly when the pohutakawa trees are in full bloom)

Favourite movie, album, book

Movie(s) – The Banff film fest; the movies blow me away every year, if you have not gone to one you must. And for a more mellow experience, Amelie—love it!

Album – Anything from St. Germain, you can’t go wrong with him. It is great background music for anything.

BookIn a sunburned country by Bill Bryson, I have never laughed so much reading a book.

Zapatito de la virgen - Calceolaria Uniflora, a very special flower found in Patagonia

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Don’t worry, enjoy it.

With the contorta crew - Kaweka Forest Park

Who or what inspires you and why?

Explorers, mountaineers, pioneers, people that go great lengths to follow their dreams and conquer what others might see as impossible, and people that survive challenges that would defeat others.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

An archaeologist.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

I would probably be at uni getting a masters degree.

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?

Some marine mammal—probably a dolphin—to be able to live underwater, play with gravity, see birds diving for food, schools of fish and penguins zooming by, and to teach other dolphins a thing or two about how great marine protected areas are and to keep away from fishing nets.

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?

Go out, explore, live it, love it, be proud, get involved and let others know about it; “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.