Archives For Nelson Lakes National Park

Today’s photo of the week is of Angelus Hut between Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa in Nelson Lakes National Park.

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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 DOC ranger Jenny Long, based in Nelson Lakes

Jenny holding a tomtit.

Plucky little tomtit caught by mistnet while I was accompanying a PhD student studying avian malaria

At work

Some things I do in my job include…

My main job is to run one of the six trial sites for DOC’s self-resetting trap trial.

Monitoring wrybill and oystercatcher breeding and survival in the Rangitata River as part of a wind farm mitigation project.

Monitoring wrybill and oystercatcher breeding and survival in the Rangitata River as part of a wind farm mitigation project

This one is based at the Rotoiti Nature Recovery Project (RNRP) Mainland Island in Nelson Lakes National Park.

This involves collecting data on trap performance, monitoring mustelids and ensuring the traps in the field are set up and checked correctly.

I also get to join in with a wide range of other biodiversity work including monitoring native species like weka, robins and kākā, trapping/poisoning other pest species and engaging with volunteers and other members of the public.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by…

Mainland Islands were created to be places where we could test new methods and technology, so our work in the RNRP is geared towards improving techniques for tackling conservation challenges nationwide.

The work my teammates and I do also directly helps protect the native species within the area that we do pest control, as well as helping to spread the conservation message to the wider public when they come to visit Nelson Lakes and enjoy the wildlife and stunning views.

The best bit about my job is

Spending most of my time outdoors amongst the beautiful mountains of Nelson Lakes, doing something I really care about, and working with great like-minded people.

Most scenic stoat trapline in this neck of the woods–along the top of the St Arnaud range.

Most scenic stoat trapline in this neck of the woods–along the top of the St Arnaud range

The most surreal DOC moment I’ve had so far was

When we had the NZ Air Force (who have a training base nearby) helping us to take out an old hut, and I was flying along above the forest in a noisy open-sided Iroquois helicopter with soldiers in uniform… I felt like I was in a Vietnam war movie!

Catch of the day: a stoat with racing stripes!

Catch of the day: a stoat with racing stripes!

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

Everyone I’ve met in DOC has been pretty inspiring, from the scientists who do the research to inform decisions, through to the managers who make those decisions, to the rangers who make it all happen by slogging around the hills day in, day out.

But one person who stands out for me is of course my partner Joris Tinnemans, beech tree-shooter extraordinaire, who is always so cheerful and enthusiastic no matter how wet the West Coast bush, how uncooperative the birds he’s trying to monitor, or how many anchors he’s lost overboard!

On a personal note

The song that always cheers me up is

Longtime by Salmonella Dub. Works every time.

If I could trade places with any other person for a week it would be

The person back in time who was most instrumental in introducing mustelids to New Zealand and I’d change my mind!

The best thing to do after a long hot day working at Lake Rotoiti!

The best thing to do after a long hot day working at Lake Rotoiti!

My best ever holiday was

Going to Transylvania (in Romania) with Joris to do volunteer work for a PhD student studying the impact on large carnivores of Romania’s drive for development since joining the EU. It was fascinating seeing the old sustainable lifestyle of the Transylvanian villagers and the incredible biodiversity in their mosaic of forest, wood pastures and small farms. It was also a joy to see carnivorous mammals like foxes, martens and bears in an ecosystem where they belong.

If I could be any New Zealand native species I’d be

A peripatus (velvet worms)! They look like pudgy worms with legs, how could anyone not love them?

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to…

In my dream world I’d love to travel around the world doing conservation work, learning the languages of local people and finding out different ways of approaching the wide variety of conservation challenges we face worldwide. Of course, in my dream world I could also do this without burning tonnes of fossil fuels on long haul flights…

Deep and meaningful

My favourite quote is…

There are oodles of witty and inspiring quotes to choose from, but a more serious one that helps whenever I’m getting overly frustrated at not being able to solve the world’s environmental problems single-handed is this one:

“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

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

“Give it a go”—given to me by my parents about every single idea I’ve had for a change in life direction, including about-turns between studying graphics, doing a car mechanic course, studying linguistics and marine biology at university, going to vet school, mountain-bike instructing in America, leaving my GIS job to go back to uni to study Wildlife Management… and so on.

I don’t regret any of the things I’ve tried my hand at, I’ve met so many great people and had a lot of memorable experiences.

My awesome parents got me outdoors  right from the beginning! Here’s dad  taking me abseiling at Mt Ruapehu  when I was two

My awesome parents got me outdoors right from the beginning! Here’s dad taking me abseiling at Mt Ruapehu when I was two

In work and life I am motivated by

The friendly and inspiring people I meet everywhere, the beauty of nature, and the unfailing ability of life to be funny and take you by surprise. Like when you’ve organised to go on a great chocolate-fuelled tramping trip over Easter, only to end up in hospital on nil-by-mouth with a second bout of appendicitis (it can happen) while surrounded by taunting Easter eggs from well-meaning visitors!

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…

It’s not a new idea, but for anyone who is already passionate about conservation my advice would be to do your best to share this passion with others who aren’t already involved.

Take friends of friends tramping/kayaking/biking, give family a bird-feeder and stoat trap set for Christmas, become a scout leader and take kids on outdoors trips to get them stoked on nature early—there are myriad ways to spread your enthusiasm and help make it normal to be environmentally aware.

Question of the week

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to and why?

I would change it to Basil, because there aren’t enough Basils in the world these days.

Dean Nelson is based in the Twizel Area Office, he recently took his partner Sandy and nine year old twins, Ryan and Kyle to stay at Angelus Hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park. He shares the adventure with us.

For me it was a chance to revisit a hut, albeit a new version, that I had not been to since a teenager – more than several decades ago. For partner Sandy and nine year old twins, Ryan and Kyle, it was all new country. The grind up Pinchgut track and along Robert Ridge became more challenging as the temperature climbed and the gusty wind had the boys hanging on to their hats and the ridge itself at times. However by early afternoon, we were gazing out over the beautiful Angelus basin from the ridge above.

Angelus Hut overlooking the lake.

Angelus Hut

The new hut is a stunner, well thought out in every way. The large entry vestibules are great for storing boots, parkas and packs and the gleaming stainless bench tops in the kitchen are excellent. There was an eclectic mix of people in the hut that night but it was great to see a number of kiwi families. Ian, the converted Aussie hut warden gave a great talk and everyone settled off to sleep reasonably early. Fortunately the loud snorers were conspicuously absent from our bunk room.

Tramping and overlooking Lake Angelus and the Hut.


After going to bed in fine weather, the morning was a timely reminder of how quickly it can all change in the New Zealand backcountry. A dusting of snow and blizzard like conditions greeted us. Conversation was a bit more subdued as there appeared to be a few inexperienced trampers in the group however Ian imparted good advice. Most people packed and left early but we waited for a while on the off-chance it would ease a bit. It didn’t so we rugged up in all our gear and headed out into the swirling snow. This was another new experience for our boys as although they have done quite a few tramping trips, they have always been blessed with fine weather.

Snowing at Lake Angelus.

Snowing at Lake Angelus

Fortunately by the time we climbed over the ridge and down into Speargrass Creek, the weather eased and before long the sun was shining again. An easy wander through tussock basins, alpine shrubland and finally beech forest took us down the creek to emerge onto a gorgeous, tussock filled clearing. Speargrass hut is a much smaller building than Angelus with sleeping benches for 12 people however this creates a more intimate atmosphere. We were captivated and despite having plenty of time left in the day to walk out to the car park, we decided to enjoy the experience of being in the hills. We whiled away the afternoon in the sunshine while the boys made huts in the beech forest.

Speargrass Hut in the Nelson Lakes National Park.

Speargrass Hut

Being on the track from Lake Rotoroa, it was inevitable that other people would turn up but the hut was far from full. The only drama for the night was getting up to investigate all the noise outside on the deck and finding the fat and healthy looking ‘hut’ possum getting into a plastic container of food that someone had left outside. It took a little bit of persuading to let go!!

Making dams at Lake Angelus.

Making dams

Nelson Lakes National Park

Nelson Lakes National Park (established in 1956) is situated in the north of New Zealand’s South Island.  This park protects 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The park offers tranquil beech forest, craggy mountains, clear streams and lakes both big and small.