Archives For people

This week DOC is celebrating Conservation Week with over 130 events, activities and competitions happening around the country.

Continue Reading...

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 Geoff Hicks, DOC’s Chief Scientist, based in National Office, Wellington

Some things I do in my job include…

Providing advice and maintaining good relationships with science sector colleagues to advantage DOC; adding a science perspective to international negotiations; and keeping our science and research strategy relevant and up to date.

Geoff Hicks on the Northern Circuit, Tongariro.

My favourite tramping spot, Northern Circuit, Tongariro

The best bit about my job is…

Seeing people make the connection between science, conservation and their sense of identity and prosperity.

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

Recently representing New Zealand at the launch of the new Intergovernmental science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) in Panama City, in April last year.

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

Not one but many… the quality and commitment of our science staff.

On the Sculpter's Walk, South Head, Sydney .

On the Sculpter’s Walk, South Head, Sydney

On a personal note…

My stomping ground is…

Tongariro Northern Circuit and the Rough Ridge Central Otago. 

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…

Richard Branson… for his stratospheric vision.

My best ever holiday was…

A month of long service leave spent at Beaux Chene, a lovely villa on the banks of the Baise River, Nerac, south west France.

My greatest sporting moment was when…

I beat my good friend Karl in the veterans Karapoti Classic—by 15 minutes to boot!

Before working at DOC I…

Was Conceptual Leader Natural Environment at Te Papa Museum of New Zealand—responsible for the creation of the Awesome Forces, Mountains to Sea and Bush City exhibitions.

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…

“Aim high, you’re bound to hit something!” 

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

Carpe diem!

In work and life I am motivated by…

Happiness and Michelle—they go together!

Geoff with his daughter Kate and his 93 year old mum.

Geoff with his daughter Kate and his 93 year old mum

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…

Just remember that DOC consistently ranks amongst the most loved state agencies by New Zealanders; they really do appreciate what we do!

Question of the week

What story does your family love to tell about you?

When I was about 10 years old we lived next to a family at Raumati Beach that had a corgi dog. His name was Clarry. I didn’t like him much and he came to greatly dislike me, probably because I used to tease him while on the backyard swing. I used to aggravate him while zooming overhead growling and making snapping, clawing gesticulations with my fingers.  He was a smart dog. He got better at reacting as I passed overhead and his snarling, snapping jaws got closer to me at every pass.

But I was so imbued with my own success at angering him that I was oblivious to the shortening distance to my derrière. And inevitably he struck. So there I was flying backwards and forwards on this swing with a ratty, salivating corgi attached firmly to my butt! After the tetanus injection (and they really do hurt) I was left ruminating over the moral of this story. Perhaps it was: when you are tantalised and determined you can achieve great things. Even a flying corgi will testify to that!

DOC’s got talent – and for once I’m not talking about our world-leading conservation work. Today, in honour of New Zealand Music Month, we’re kicking off a three-part series showcasing the musicians in our midst. From Brazilian samba to electronic pop punk rock, you’ll find DOC musicians are as diverse as the ecosystems they help care for – and just as inspiring.

Delete Delete: Kurt Shanks

Formerly bass player in stellar*, DOC’s Auckland based Communications and Engagement Advisor, Kurt Shanks, is now one half of the electronic pop punk rock duo Delete Delete.

The Delete Delete duo Kurt Shanks and Lani Purkis.

The Delete Delete duo Kurt Shanks and Lani Purkis

Although Delete Delete is still in its early days, their future looks bright. Their debut single Sedated has been selected as Song of the Day on music website Cheese on Toast and they’ve been interviewed on TVNZ U, where they played their new animated video (which is, by the way, completely wicked and one you’ll want to watch):

Kurt’s job at DOC sees him doing everything from generating local media coverage for Auckland-specific DOC projects, to unearthing new ways to engage and involve Aucklanders in conservation projects.

In Delete Delete Kurt does a little bit of everything too – from playing the guitar and keyboards to singing and co-writing songs.

Whether in his band, or in his work at DOC, Kurt is always trying to convey as economically as possible the core story or emotion. “Too many words blur the picture.”

Check out Delete Delete on Facebook

Tom’s Field: Sean Magee

“A tasty mix of folk/old-time fusion with contemporary and modern flavours” is how Nelson’s Sean Magee describes his bluegrass/folk band Tom’s Field. The group’s repertoire includes bluegrass harmonies and rhythms, stomping reels and jigs, original compositions and soulful songs all interspersed with cheeky irreverence.

Sean Magee (second from left) with his bluegrass/folk band Tom's Field.

Sean Magee (second from left) with his bluegrass/folk band Tom’s Field

18 months into his time with Tom’s Field, Sean – who sings and plays banjo and mandolin – says its a great buzz to play to a dance floor full of revellers. He recommends that you “bring your dancing trousers and be prepared to raise a sweat”.

Here he is (on the mandolin) at Motty Malones Irish Bar in Motueka. If this doesn’t get your feet tapping nothing will:

Originally from the north of Ireland, with an academic background in law, Sean now provides administrative support for the Nelson/Marlborough Conservation Board and DOC Conservancy Office.

Wellington Batucada: Kate McAlpine

DOC Science Adviser Kate McAlpine cites playing in the Rugby World Cup victory parade as her biggest moment with Wellington Batucada, a group she has been involved with for about four years.

Samba is the traditional music played by large percussion groups in Brazil’s carnival parades, and Wellington Batucada looks to emulate this tradition. Kate plays agogo bells and shaker, and is also gig coordinator.

Kate performing with the Wellington Batucada.

Kate (middle front with blonde pigtails) performing with the Wellington Batucada

At DOC Kate does scientific research and provides advice on environmental weeds.

Watch Wellington Batucada perform at the Rugby World Cup opening night:

Check out Wellington Batucada on Facebook

Stay tuned for Part II of our New Zealand Music Month series, profiling the musicians in our midst, next week.

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 Lynn, Ranger—Visitor and Historic Assets, in DOC’s Gisborne/Whakatane Area Office.

David Lynn with a weka.

Out mucking in, helping capture, weigh and measure
North Island weka, at Motu

Some things I do in my job include…

Track maintenance, hut maintenance, track inspections, managing the awesome Anaura Bay Campground, managing ‘Gateway’ school students, my Duty Officer role, fire fighting, as well as around 12 years at DOC as a Conservancy Records/Admin officer.

Fire fighters battling a burning house.

Fire training. This is a house at Opotiki. A learning experience, as only months later I witnessed a real house on fire at Pahiatua. I was first on the scene, kicked the door down but, through our training, knew it was too late

The best bit about my job is…

Getting out there and walking our lovely tracks and rivers. I’ve often stopped and looked around—whilst in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a fresh water river—and looked at the great scenery, and thought…’What an awesome job I have’.

The scariest DOC moment I’ve had so far is…

At a social event—hoping like mad that all my workmates had also dressed up as rock stars on our social club pub crawl—before I walked into the pub we were all meeting at.

Close up of David's face with Gene Simmons make-up, sticking out tongue.

The Gene Simmons stunt double! It won me Best Dressed
at one of our social club fixtures

The DOC employee that inspires or enthuses me most is…

It has to be the staff I see walking kilometres with big chainsaws, and loaded with gear, into tracks to cut trees. We have some real work horses out there doing great work.

Most people don’t know I…

A bit gross to some, but most people don’t know that I endured 31 years on and off of having plastic surgery to my face. My nose has been made from skin from my forehead, my top lip is actually 1/3 of my bottom lip, but hey this is me now and I’m amazed at what doctors can do in this field of surgery. This happened due to a type of growth that occurred within a week of birth that wiped out my top lip and nasal area.

My stomping ground is…

Gisborne, known to most as Gizzy. A neat town, off the beaten track some say but the beaches, fishing/diving and weather are tops.

David standing on a large truck full of building supplies.

The project: getting over 150 boxed steps built at Cooks Cove, Tolaga Bay. This is step two of many—weighing and getting all the wood/gravel/building equipment transported, ready for pick up by heli to the work sites. A massive job I got to manage from start to finish

My best ever holiday was…

Taking the wife Anne, and children Jessica and Daniel, over to Surfer’s Paradise last year. What an awesome place.

My greatest sporting moment was when…

I was selected for the North Island Indoor Bowls team in 2003 and then again in 2004. Only 10 men and 10 woman get selected in this team. We lost to the South Island in 2003, but got revenge in 2004.

David holding bowling trophy.

North vs South Island winners 2004

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is…

Live life to the fullest , you never know what is around the corner.

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

Your best friends will be by your side in every way, you will learn fast who your best friends are.

In work and life I am motivated by…

I think in both work and life I’m motivated by doing the very best I can and seeing the rewards after. I’ve been very successful in my sport and education, and have always had employment from the age of 17 (25 years of government service was just achieved in January this year).

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is…

Get out there and see what New Zealand has to offer. Some of the places I have seen (through working at DOC and travelling the country in my sport) are just great.

Question of the week…

‘Question of the week’ will differ each week. If you have any suggestions for questions, please leave us a comment.

Which celebrity would play you in a movie about your life?

I would have to say that I actually need two celebrities: one called Paul Kaye off the film Blackball—a little known comedy about bowls—and his stunt double, a younger Clint Eastwood could jump in, in places, but without without Clyde the Orangutan (off Every Which Way but Loose).

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 Biodiversity Ranger, Cherie Hemsley.

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Weed control, possum control, rat control, dotterel work, and quarantine checks.

What is the best part about your job?

Everything!!! The places on the island that we get to go to and locations that, unless you were working for the department, you don’t get to go to.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Not having enough hours in the day to do everything.

What led you to your role in DOC?

I love the bush.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Working on getting sign-off to drive our Stabi Crafts.

Cherie and daughter Betty at the beach – Mason Bay

The rule of 3…

Three loves

  1. My daughter Betty
  2. My partner Simon
  3. Stewart Island

Three pet peeves

  1. Mess (when peeps don’t clean up after themselves)
  2. Laziness
  3. Too much time indoors

Cherie and partner Simon

Three foods 

  1. Whitetail
  2. Salmon
  3. Trumpeter

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Mason Bay
  2. Port Pegasus
  3. Codfish Island (I know they are all Stewart Island and around, but that’s why I live here)

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Movie: Stand By Me
  2. Album: The Best of Otis Redding
  3. Book: Whitethorn by Bryce Courtney

Cherie’s daughter Betty and partner Simon

Deep and meaningful…

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

Start saving 10% of your wages now!

Who or what inspires you and why?

My daughter because she is AMAZING!

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

A vet.

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

Working in the bush somewhere—study’n botany maybe?

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Hmmmmmmm, grow your own veggies.

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

Grow my own veggies with more success this year than last year.

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

Harlequin gecko because we know so little about them.

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

Just spend a bit of time in the bush and at our huts, then see how you feel. It might make you think twice about priorities in life.

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 Intranet Communications Advisor Tina Clouston.

Walking the ‘Narrows’ in Zion National Park, USA –
the walk is mostly through the river

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I spend a decent amount of time looking after the day-to-day running of the intranet—reviewing content, training, testing new features, publishing content, supporting our content editors (all 70+ of them), improving usability etc etc. With over 11,000 pages on the intranet it keeps me busy! And it means that I’m never entirely sure how my day is going to pan out…

And then we’ve got a number of projects on the go (fun website/intranet stuff) like trialling the ‘like’ feature, which we’ve added to our front page stories this week.

It’s a great job.

What is the best part about your job?

Hmmmm… a few things actually:

  • Discovering all the interesting things that everyone does. I get to see a slice of it via the intranet content that we review.
  • Deleting old content off the intranet. I know, it’s a bit geeky, but there is nothing like getting rid of old stuff!
  • Investigating ways to make the intranet better.

What is the hardest part about your job?
 
Last minute requests!

What led you to your role in DOC?
 
I’ve been working on websites and intranets for a while now in a number of different industries. My last role, based in London, was working for an Asset Management Company—content that was all about shares and trading and making money—not the most inspirational stuff. After five years of that and a hankering to head home, I decided I needed to work somewhere I actually wanted to work. And so I applied for the job and here I am.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

I was lucky enough to attend Te Pukenga Atawhai, which was a fantastic experience. I met loads of wonderful people and had a generally great time.

Dog-sledding in Norway

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. A crisp, clear winter’s day.
  2. Travelling – love it! Living in London was the perfect base for seeing the world and I’ve also been lucky enough to live in the States, and have spent a number of months in Japan.
  3. www.etsy.com. So much crafty goodness.

Three pet peeves

  1. People texting at dinner or during meetings. Really – can it not wait?
  2. Missing the train (yes, I know it’s my own fault).
  3. Littering.

Three foods

  1. Gingernut ice-cream.
  2. A good ol’ fashioned roast.
  3. Wellington coffee.

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Wellington. Aside from having a great vibe, it’s my home.
  2. Tongariro National Park.
  3. My grandmother’s old home at Himitangi beach.

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Movie: The Goonies – classic 80s movie. Sloth is awesome.
  2. Album: August and Everything After by Counting Crows. Always reminds me of road tripping in America.
  3. Book: The Help – wonderful, warm characters.

On an ice covered beach in Iceland

Deep and meaningful…

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

Don’t worry so much.

Who or what inspires you and why?

Brian Cox. He’s been making science cool in the UK. Though he failed maths at school, he’s since played keyboard in a rock band, works on the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland and has been making BBC documentaries about the Universe.

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

An astronaut.

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

A photographer for National Geographic. Might need a few photography lessons first….

Tramping the Milford Track, January 2012

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Say no to plastic bags.

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

Compost.

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

A morepork. Why? They have fantastic hearing, can see in the dark and can turn their heads 270 degrees.

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

Take good care of our country –  it’s going to be here a lot longer than us.

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 Deputy Director-General Business Services Group, Grant Baker.

Me on the Tongariro Crossing with the Emerald lakes in the background

At work…

Name: Grant Baker.

Position:Deputy Director-General, Business Services Group (BSG).

What kind of things do you do in your role?

I provide leadership and guidance to my managers to ensure that BSG provides the high level of support and service required for DOC to meet its obligations. This includes ensuring we have the funding to continue to balance our budgets now and in the future and that all our systems operate and are supported so that staff can do their work.

I support Al is his role as Director-General, and my Deputy Director-General colleagues in their work, and make sure that work is fun and enjoyable—not always the easiest thing to do.

What is the best part about your job?

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata; you, our people, are extremely good at what you do. And visiting people and places across DOC, which is a key part of my job. 

What is the hardest part about your job?

Going into bat for conservation with central agencies and convincing them of the benefit that conservation makes to the economy and to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.

What led you to your role in DOC?

My first career was in broadcasting engineering as a radio technician at 2ZW Wanganui, and then into management at an early age in Radio and Television engineering. In the late 1990s, after 27 years in broadcasting, it was time to try something new, and the opportunity arose to join DOC as one of the three Regional General Managers as part of the re-structuring of DOC post Cave Creek. One could say I haven’t looked back since. 

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

It’s always great to get to the end of another (financial) year, have the new Statement of Intent signed off by Cabinet and in place, know that we have come in within last year’s budget, have balanced the budget for the years ahead, and have delivered on all of our work in the year just completed. 

On the Abel Tasman track near Torrent Bay

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Family. I’m married to Margaret, with four sons and four grandchildren around the world.
  2. Playing cricket and golf. I’ve played cricket in most of the playing continents of the world—New Zealand, Australia, Africa, North America, South America, Great Britain, West Indies and Sri Lanka (and as a result, have also played golf in those places).
  3. Travel—to spectacular places around the world, whether it’s for visiting family, going to international vintage cricket tournaments or just sheer enjoyment.

Three pet peeves

  1. Having nothing to do—I can’t just sit down and do nothing.
  2. People who litter.
  3. People who are inconsiderate of others. 

Three foods

  1. Whitebait fritters and oysters.
  2. Any hot meat and three veg.
  3. Apple pie and ice cream. 

White Island and Anchor Island

Three favourite places in New Zealand

In DOC you get to travel to some amazing places which makes this question hard to answer.

So, in my case these are three spectacular places I have been privileged to visit with DOC rather than spectacular golf holes or cricket grounds… and it still means I have to leave out many amazing places…..

Dusky Sound

    1. White Island—what an amazing landscape, very active volcanic area, and hard to image how tough life would have been living and working out there.
    2. Anchor Island/Dusky Sound—on a clear night the sky is teeming with stars and with no interference the scene is brilliant. No wonder Captain Cook came back twice to star gaze. 
    3. Tane Mahuta—there is something about standing in front of a kauri that has been growing for over a thousand years and still survives. Gives you that feeling of eternal life.

Tane Mahuta

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie: The Life of Brian or any of the Monty Python movies, they are all a great laugh….
  • Album: The Beatles – White Album – their ninth album and the first one under the Apple Label.
  • Book: The 39 Steps – John Buchan. One of the early thrillers.

Deep and meaningful…

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

You only live once, make the most of your life and enjoy every step of the journey.

Who or what inspires you and why?

In my youth I was inspired by Murray Halberg, a person who quietly went about his business of running and inspired many with his Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medals and world records. He was New Zealand’s first sub four minute miler and in later life he set up the Halberg Trust which supports children with disabilities.

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

I left school not really knowing what I wanted to be… and just started work. The career advice from college was along the lines of accountancy or maybe being a secret agent. Hence radio seemed a better idea.

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

A professional golfer, but of course a good one that doesn’t get the putting yips…

All ready to go into bat – Golden Oldies Tournament Queenstown 2008

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Having just built a sustainable home and getting both the health and cost benefits, I’m even more convinced that anyone building a new home must include sustainable features—the benefits are so good that its a no brainer. But New Zealanders get trapped by not wanting to spend the very small amount extra at the start and as a result miss out.

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

To ensure that everyone understands that what goes down the gutter, at home or in the street, flows into our streams and harbours.

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

There’s plenty to choose from, maybe a weta or a New Zealand Falcon. But I’ve selected the tuatara; they, like me, have been around a long time, in theory with strong knowledge and experience—survivors.

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

New Zealand’s economy relies on conservation in its many guises; all of us have a part to play to ensure that our living space is kept in the best possible condition for our grandchildren.