Archives For Mount Taranaki

We’re celebrating National Volunteer Week (15-21 June 2014). Join us as we share stories of the volunteers who contribute to conservation.

Sorrel Hoskin.

Sorrel Hoskin

Today, we’re publishing (with permission) an email sent by DOC Ranger, Sorrel Hoskin (New Plymouth/Ngamotu), to DOC Director-General, Lou Sanson…

As a partnerships visitor centre ranger on Mounga Taranaki I work in an amazing place—driving to work in the morning I look up at the mountain and feel lucky to work in such a special environment.

Mount Taranaki. Photo:  Kathrin & Stefan Marks | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Mounga Taranaki—an amazing place to work

We get busy at the visitor centre, and opportunities to get out and explore some of amazing places we help care for are limited.

Volunteers (left to right): Linda, Sorrel and Victoria.

Volunteers (left to right):
Linda, Sorrel and Victoria

When I read and hear about some of the cool things being done by colleagues around the country I wanted to learn more and help in some small way.

I also thought it’s important to know what we at DOC are asking of our volunteers. How can we promote and ask people to volunteer if we ourselves haven’t “walked the walk”?

So I took some annual leave and signed up as a volunteer for DOC on Maud Island doing weed work.

Ten days later, one volunteer experience doesn’t make me an expert—but it gave me an idea of what being a ‘volly’ is like.

The Maud Island trip was a big ask—10 days straight working 8 hours a day clambering up steep hills struggling through scrub looking for old man’s beard, wilding pines and pohutukawa to chop down.

Sometimes the going was steep.

Sometimes the going was steep!

Getting scratched, hot and tired, stumbling over fallen trees, ending upside down in gorse bushes… there were times I thought “what the #$@&% am I doing here?”

Old man's beard weeding.

Weeding old man’s beard

But I’d go back again and again. The hard work is balanced by the opportunity to be around some passionate, knowledgeable, DOC people—who obviously love their work—and interact with and learn more about takahē, kākāpō, giant weta, geckos, the Maud Island frog and penguins

I have amazing memories of going exploring one night and having to be careful where we walk so as not to accidentally step on giant weta or any tiny Maud Island frogs.

View from Comalco Lodge, Maud Island

View from Comalco Lodge, Maud Island

Night swimming in phosphorescence and watching a “glowing” little blue penguin swim by was a highlight… and then there’s the saddening impact of what the introduction of mice to the island means to all those species and the rangers who take care of them.

Taking a break.

Taking a break

I’ve returned to my job on the mountain with a greater understanding of the work being done to protect some of our endangered species, and a higher respect for colleagues who help protect these species. I also have a little experience of what it is like to be a volunteer for DOC. It’s bloody hard work—but it’s worth it.

Sunset from Maud Island.

Sunset from Maud Island

Volunteers play a vital role in conservation in New Zealand, whether they’re working with DOC or other community conservation groups.

Volunteer for conservation and help us on our mission to make New Zealand the greatest living space on Earth!

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 Laura Porterhouse, Procurement Development Advisor, Wellington.

Laura tramping on Mount Taranaki.

My first tramp in New Zealand – Mt Taranaki

At work

Some things I do in my job include… turning Government economic and procurement policy into DOC policy, and helping people who buy goods and services (i.e. do procurement) in DOC follow and understand it. Sometimes this involves lots of writing (guidelines, templates etc.), sometimes it involves going out and providing advice and training, and sometimes it involves helping figure out complicated procurements that crop up from time to time.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… DOC has hundreds of suppliers and spends a lot of money buying goods and services that help us deliver conservation. My work is about helping people get the most for their money and great results from suppliers, as well as making sure we comply with New Zealand’s trade agreements.

Laura searching for whio.

Wading through the icy Roaring Burn river in search of whio

The best bit about my job is… although I’m based in Wellington I get to work with and talk to lots of different people across DOC, who are all doing different jobs in different environments. Getting to see what goes on in so many parts of DOC never gets boring. Coming from Europe, I feel very privileged to work somewhere where I’ve been able to learn so much about New Zealand and the incredible places DOC looks after.

The awesomeist DOC moment I’ve had so far is… when I was in Southland last year to run some procurement workshops and meet staff out in the Areas to learn more about their work.  I was lucky enough to get a helicopter ride over Milford Sound with a group heading out to monitor whio on a beautiful spring day– absolutely amazing!

The DOC employees who inspire me the most are… the people who work quietly behind the scenes, who don’t always get much of a mention, but who are doing a great job and are committed to conservation even if they’re not out on the front line.

On a personal note…

Most people don’t know that… I can write with both hands.

The song that always cheers me up is… ‘Bean Fields’ (or anything uplifting) by the Penguin Café Orchestra, or ‘Mothership’—the album—when I need to get up and do something.

View of the Salinas, with nothing around.

Stuck on the Salinas with no way out

My best ever holiday was… travelling around South America after a hard slog at college in Buenos Aires. It was a dream come true to see Machu Picchu and the Amazon. A ‘near death experience’ (!) on the Salinas near Bolivia also etched that trip in my memory. Our car lost its spare tyre at 4000m above sea level just as the sun was going down. Two hours drive from the nearest village in shorts and t-shirts, we thought we would freeze to death on the roadside. Eventually someone appeared on the horizon and drove us to safety, obviously!

In my spare time I… go to art college, which means lots of drawing and painting, swearing if this involves accurate three point perspective, and getting told off for turning the front room into an ‘arts and crafts room’.

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… Leonardo Da Vinci, so I could harness his talents and incredible way of thinking and seeing the world around him.

Laura's broken down car on the Salinas.

The broken down car

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Life is not about being strong, but about making difficult decisions.”

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… invest in your shoes and your bed – you spend your life in one or the other.

In life and work I am motivated by… people who work with intense will and extreme humility, who don’t focus on what they’ve accomplished, but simply keep going and find something better to do.

My conservation advice is… everyone can do something for conservation. You don’t have to have the solution to global warming – simple things like planting natives, managing with one less car, and reducing your waste will all have a positive impact on the environment and the other species we share it with.

Laura on Macchu Picchu at sunrise.

Sunrise at Macchu Picchu

Question of the week…

What would you name a book about the story of your life? That’s a tough question. If think if I were to attempt an autobiography at this stage in my life, I’d probably name it something like ‘It’s all gone a bit bongomondo’. The highs and lows of life have been so random, plans have changed and the unexpected happened. You don’t always end up where you think you would be, but sometimes letting go of what you expected leads to a life you could never have imagined.

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 Taranaki Service Ranger, Traci Grant.

Mount Taranaki, Egmont National Park

At work… 

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I do a mixture of reception and administration duties which include: hunting and possum trapping permits, answering general enquires, giving advice about tramping opportunities on our beautiful maunga, and also HR, payroll, timesheets, stationery, uniforms, vehicles, travel bookings, minute taking, and providing general help when required.

What is the best part about your job?

The people I work with, and the great things we achieve. It can often be quite hard working in an office-based role while everyone else is out there in the field doing it, but it is rewarding when you know what you’re doing is helping someone, and maybe making their day a little easier.

Walking the Milford Track with Donna and Mike

What is the hardest part about your job?

Juggling the number of different tasks and not being able to complete a task from start to finish, and then probably chasing people to get things completed on time.

What led you to your role in DOC?

An Environmental Ethics paper at university, a childhood full of family holidays in the outdoors, and definitely my adventurous dad. 

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Winter is an extremely office based time of the year, but the highlight, let’s say for Autumn 2012, was walking the Milford Track and a road trip around the South Island for two weeks. I have to admit this was the first time I had been past Blenheim! And my gosh, how beautiful is the South Island??

South Island road trip 2012

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My amazing friends, you guys are awesome!
  2. My ma and pa; they have put up with a lot of mind changes and late night calls but at the end of the day they always have dinner and a mug of Milo waiting for me!
  3. Home; I’m a homebody wherever that home (and my Crown Lynn collection) might be!

Three pet peeves

  1. People who talk over you.
  2. Accommodation that doesn’t have free internet.
  3. Cafes that only have white sugar for my coffee—come on I have fancier sugar at home haha!

Three foods

  1. A shared home cooked meal (made by someone other than me)
  2. Cupcakes/cake/brownie/BAKING!!
  3. Redbull. Okay it’s not a food but…

My signature vanilla and hazelnut cupcakes

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Home
  2. Whanganui river. Throughout high school and uni we would do at least one trip each summer; it’s a really magical place
  3. Whatipu at the head of the Manukau Harbour—my brother had his wedding here earlier this year. Not only was the rugged West Coast amazing but the old lodge, built in 1870, where we stayed had all sorts of treasures including old plates displayed along the kitchen walls!

At the summit of Mount Taranaki – you can just see Ruapehu in the background

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie: Crazy Stupid Love—thanks to Ryan Gosling I’ve seen it three times!
  • Album/Artist: Ash Grunwald; a friend and I saw him play in New Plymouth earlier this month—he has a bit of a Black Keys sound going on, so if you like them he’s worth a listen! And Tono and the Finance Company—this is an indie band from Dunedin who are now based in Auckland. I saw them play in Dunedin during our South Island road trip, and it was one of my highlights!
  • Book: For me it would have to be Your Home and Garden magazine—I love all the inspiration and crafty ideas.

Deep and meaningful…

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

No matter what happens, everything will work out—it always does.

Who or what inspires you and why?

My friends and the people I’ve met here and there along the way, especially the crafty ones and the passionate ones.

Walking the Milford Track (Dore Pass)

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

A volcanologist, a designer, and then later on, a philosopher. 

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

Well if I could do anything I would probably be running an online store selling the crafty things I make. Maybe I’d also run a coffee house and bake amazing cupcakes!

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

I like to turn things off at the wall. Oh and you don’t actually have to try and keep up with everyone else and their flash new things, you can be quite happy with that old Nokia brick phone!

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year—at home? At work?

At home—walk to town on the weekends, there is plenty of time. At work—use that webcam!!!

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

A robin or maybe a South Island tomtit, mainly because they are little and cute and get to live in some beautiful places—OR a tui, probably because they can hang out in the bush, but they also like being in town—that’s a bit of me!

South Island robin

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

Go outside, even if it’s just to the local park. Run around a bit, listen to the birds, and enjoy the shade of that tree in your back garden. Teach your children about the tui and the kereru, and inspire them!