Archives For Opotiki

Come behind the scenes and into the jobs and the personalities of the people who work at DOC. Today we profile Emma Erickson, Biodiversity Ranger in Opotiki.

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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 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?

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 Opotiki ranger James (Hemi) Barsdell…

James with a kiwi at Otamatuna - Te Urewera Mainland Island

At work…

Name: James (Hemi) Barsdell

Position: Biodiversity Assets Ranger (with a bit of other stuff too!). 

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Monitor weka, enhance shorebird breeding, work with the many dedicated community groups in the eastern Bay of Plenty, compliance work, fire fighting and whatever else needs doing.

What is the best part about your job?

The people and the environment.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Although I haven’t done this for a wee while now (as my increasing waist line can attest), lumping loads of gear throughout the hills. Oh and dealing with irate whitebaiters.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

An acknowledgement for the ‘Volunteer Smoko’ I helped organise with the local and regional councils to thank the eastern Bay of Plenty conservation volunteers for their great efforts in the past year. The event gave each group a chance to show case what they do and to network with each other. From the feedback we received it sounds like it might become an annual event!

The rule of three…

Three loves


  1. Family
  2. Hunting
  3. Seafood

Three pet peeves

  1. Being late
  2. Forgetting stuff
  3. “Gonnas” (if you don’t know what this means, someone else will)

Three things always in your fridge

Not very exciting here…

  1. Milk
  2. Butter
  3. The one year old half-eaten jar of pickles

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Maungapohatu
  2. The South Island high country
  3. The Bay of Plenty

Maungapohatu - a special placeHunting

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie – The Shawshank Redemption
  • Album – The Eagles –  Hell Freezes Over
  • Book – Pack and Rifle by Phillip Holden

Deep and meaningful…

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

Think smart and slow down. Faster is not necessarily better.

Who or what inspires you and why?

People who, against all odds, become successful or break the mould; and sunset or sunrise viewed from on top of a high hill.

Rafting the Motu river

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

A helicopter pilot.

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

A surveyor.

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

A New Zealand falcon, so I could enjoy the rush of tearing through the air at unbelievable speeds chasing prey.

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

Get active and get involved. New Zealand’s native flora and fauna is a big part of what sets us apart from other countries—it is part of our identity. We need to ensure we maintain our heritage for the future.