Archives For Dunedin

The case of a curious New Zealand sea lion that decided to swim some laps at a Dunedin public pool in the weekend.

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Spring has arrived this past week in Dunedin with the return of Taiaroa Head’s northern royal albatross/toroa. Today’s photo of the week is of an albatross coming in to land for the upcoming breeding season.

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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 David Agnew, Conservation Services Manager, Dunedin.

David Agnew in the office.

In the office

At work

Some things I do in my job include:

Managing a large team, working on multiple issues at once, trying to keep my desk tidy, my phone clear of messages, and my inbox under control. Also engaging with a wide range of staff from all over the country, plus engaging with a large range of partners, stakeholders and community. And having fun while I’m doing it all!

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by:

Doing great conservation work, with others, and aiming to continually improve efficiency and effectiveness. Also I reckon it is really important that we portray a positive image of ourselves and our organisation. We’re lucky to have such interesting jobs.

The best bit about my job is:

Achieving some great conservation results, plus the mix of getting to a lot of different places and having quality time with a lot of different people (both DOC staff and associates). I have been able to live on Great Barrier Island for 3 years as well as Invercargill, and have worked in many amazing parts of this country from Northland, all of the New Zealand subantarctic islands (including the Australian island of Macquarie) as well as several trips out to the Chathams. Don’t ask me where my favourite place is because I’m not sure.

The strangest DOC moment I’ve had so far is:

Being on a boat getting transported off Kapiti Island with a whole lot of religious folk who were on a pilgrimage to bless the island. They stopped the motors at the southern and northern ends of the island and started to pray/bless and speak in tongues then when they started saying “the evil beast is amongst them and needs to be killed” I started to wonder if they were referring to me (that was the scary bit). I was relieved when the engines were fired up, everyone returned to a normal state, and we sped back to the mainland.

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

There are many. But Marian van der Goes springs to mind. She was an inspiring leader, strong principles, very good with people, and had a good sense of fashion and fairness. She is missed down here.

David Agnew weighing an albatross chick at Taiaroa Head.

Weighing an albatross chick at Taiaroa Head

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that:

I write the occasional poem for special occasions and then recite it (kind of like a cross between Sam Hunt and Dr Seuss).

The song that always cheers me up is:

“Not Given Lightly” by Chris Knox, you can’t help but sing along to it. And it reminds me of a fun night in Queenstown, at one of his shows, after a day’s skiing with Te Anau DOC staff.

My stomping ground is:

Around the Dunedin coastline, and especially the surf breaks of national significance along the north coast (check out the Coastal Policy Statement).  If you are a surfer, then Dunedin is a great place to be – just need to invest in good wetsuits and accessories.

My best ever holiday was:

Sailing on a yacht from Singapore to Sri Lanka, then travelling overland through India for a couple of months. A memorable experience, to say the least. We experienced everything from pirates to water spouts.

My greatest sporting moment was when:

Perhaps when I was involved in giving some frisbee demonstrations at the world expo in Brisbane back in 1988. Either that or the wheelchair basketball games I was involved in for a while, great fun.

David Agnew on Auckland Island.

On South West Cape of Auckland Island

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is:

“You only live once” not sure where it came from originally, or “Carpe Diem” (seize the day), taken from a poem written in the Odes in 23 BC by the Latin poet Horace.

But I also like “Nek Minute” by Levi Hawken.

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

“Try not to have any regrets” – make the most of your opportunities.

In work and life I am motivated by:

Striving to do the best I can, being loyal to the above quote, and also ensuring there’s plenty of variety and that I appreciate and enjoy the experience.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is:

“Think global, and act local” – everyone should be trying to make a difference in their own place.

David Agnew with mountains in the background.

Heliskiing near Mt Aspiring/Tititea

Question of the week…

What funny story does your family always tell about you?

About the time that I was “seriously” stuck for words – they reckon it doesn’t happened that often, but this was “one of those moments when you wish you could disappear” and a valuable lesson.

At a garage sale we were having when leaving Christchurch for Wellington (one of our many DOC moves) a lady (wearing a see through skirt) had brought something and was paying me.  I was sitting in a very low camping chair and was trying to decide if she was pregnant.  I was certain that she was, so asked the inevitable question – “when is your baby due?”

The answer was, “I had my baby 20 years ago” – whoops.

Then she jumped in her car and disappeared up a driveway straight across the road – at least we were leaving town!

Needless to say, I’ll never ask that question again.

Today’s photo of the week was taken at Taiaroa Head/Pukekura—located on the end of the Otago Peninsula.

Taiaroa Head, Otago.

With nearly 10,000 seabirds residing on Taiaroa Head/Pukekuraincluding the only mainland colony of albatross in the Southern Hemispherethe wildlife viewing opportunities here are immense.

The area is also home to a historic lighthouse (1864) and a number of spectacular coastal walks.

By DOC’s Andrea Crawford

Volunteer with gravel in a wheelbarrow.

Fetching gravel for the path to the penguin viewing area

Recently 40 Otago Polytechnic students from the Scarfie Army did something different during their first week back in Dunedin. As well as the usual toga parties and raves, these energetic scarfies spent two days volunteering during Orientation Week.

The volunteers worked with local rangers Lucy Hardy and Guy Brannigan on maintaining the penguin viewing area at Pilots Beach at the end of Otago Peninsula, which is home to over 100 little blue penguins. This area is managed by the Pukekura Trust which runs viewing tours at night. It is also close to the northern royal albatross colony at Taiaroa Head.

It was a sweltering day and after wheel-barrowing gravel for the footpath down to penguin viewing area, picking up trash from the beach, and weeding around natives planted by local school children, the scarfies couldn’t resist and jumped into the sea to cool off.

Two volunteers clearing weeds from a penguin burrow.

Clearing weeds from a little blue penguin burrow

The volunteer army also helped with some maintenance work at the fort on Taiaroa Head for the Otago Peninsula Trust, such as cleaning rust off the disappearing gun.

Other hands on work included weeding around hundreds of native plants at the Living Legends planting site at Waitati.

The students’ work will help survival of the 10,000 natives planted by the community to create a native wetland at the Orokonui Estuary. They also potted dune restoration plants for the Tomahawk Smaills Beachcare Group at their plant nursery.

Weeding around natives plants.

Weeding around natives plants at Waitati

It is fantastic to have the Scarfie Army volunteer with DOC to help out on some important conservation projects in their local area.


Inspired to help? Our volunteer programme lists opportunities for conservation projects with the Department of Conservation. Becoming a DOC volunteer involves being supervised by, and/or working with, DOC staff.

Quammen and Te Hoiere, may be a couple of ‘dud’ takahē when it comes to breeding, but at Orokonui Ecosanctuary near Dunedin, they are being hailed as ambassadors for conservation.

Meet Quammen and Te Hoiere. Photo: Paul Nevin.

Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue logo

Their arrival is being celebrated as a great example of what can be achieved by partnerships like the one between the Orokonui Ecosanctuary, DOC, local iwi, and Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue.

The two takahē travelled by boat, car and plane to Dunedin from Maud Island in the Marlborough Sounds last Tuesday. Under the watchful eye of media and about 25 invited guests, the birds were released into the Ecosanctuary—a project of the Otago Natural History Trust. Ecosanctuary operations manager Chris Baillie said it had taken a long time and much work to get the birds to the Ecosanctuary, and to see them arrive was like a “dream come true.”

With Mitre 10 (who sponsor the takahē recovery programme) and DOC working together to renew and refresh Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue, national chairman and Mitre 10 MEGA Dunedin owner Martin Dippie was keen for his store to get involved with Orokonui Ecosanctuary by supporting it as a new home for takahē.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary map

His store provided materials for a new enclosure, which Mitre 10 staff enthusiastically spent a day helping the Ecosanctuary to build.

“The event at Orokonui went really well with a number of groups working together to give the birds a warm welcome to their new home. It was great to work closely with DOC, Orokonui, and local iwi, further developing our relationships,” said Mr Dippie.”

“At Mitre 10 we’re eager to continue to develop our partnership at a more local level with DOC, and in Dunedin we will further build our relationship with Orokonui to help support Te Hoiere and Quammen in their new home.”

Takahē ranger Martin Genet looks on as Mitre 10’s Martin Dippie and iwi representative Hoata Holmes release the takahē into Orokonui Ecosanctuary

Mr Dippie was on hand to release Quammen into the new enclosure, while Kati Huirapa Runaka ki Puketeraki iwi representative Hoata Holmes released Te Hoiere. Mitre 10 staff also joined a public event to celebrate the arrival of the takahē into Dunedin on Sunday, providing a marquee and BBQ for fundraising.

Te Anau Area Manager Reg Kemper said the transfer of takahē to Orokonui was a credit to the takahē team, whose focus was on building the national takahē population, creating new sites for takahē, and working in partnership with Mitre 10 to increase the support for takahē conservation.

“This transfer ticks all the boxes,” said Reg. “The team have managed to remove a couple of non-breeding birds from Maud Island, freeing up space for breeding birds. By providing the  Ecosanctuary with the takahē, they have created a golden opportunity for more New Zealanders to get up close and appreciate these unique birds; they’re supporting our partners, fostering relationships between our partners and at the end of the day its all increasing support for conservation.”

Learn more

About takahe on the DOC website

Mitre 10 Takahē Rescue partnership on the DOC website

Orokonui Ecosanctuary website