Archives For recreation

By Andy Thompson, Technical Advisor Recreation, Christchurch

As a passionate hunter I love exploring our backcountry—so much country, so little time!

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River.

Hunting tahr up the mighty Rakaia River

The backcountry—its huts and tracks—are our inheritance.

For me, the places where I first took my kids on an overnight tramp, and where they shot their first deer or chamois, are ingrained into my character and our family’s folklore. It’s a legacy I want my grandkids and their grandkids to have.

Andy Thompson's family on the Kepler Track.

A day walk with the family at the bottom on the Kepler Track

I’m also one of the lucky DOC staff working with the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium, who are keen to look after and maintain New Zealand’s backcountry facilities.

The consortium is a partnership between the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, New Zealand Deerstalkers’ Association and Trail Fund NZ.

Reischek Hut.

The great wee Reischek Hut in Canterbury

My heroes are the people that go on major missions, who use these places and then choose, in their spare time, to put something back.

Andy Thompson's family on the Hollyford Track.

Whānau and friends on the Hollyford Track

This isn’t about DOC shedding its responsibilities to look after backcountry huts, this is about doing more and looking after the places where many of us spend our holidays and weekends and enrich our lives.

Stanley Vale Hut.

One of my favourite places and backcountry huts—Stanley Vale in the St James Conservation Area

So, if you’re a tramper, hunter, mountain biker, 4WDer, horse rider, caver, kayaker, mountaineer or more, and want to find out what we’re up to come check out the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium website.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway.

Moss Thompson looks out over the Mt Sommers Walkway

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 Shane Hatwell, Services Ranger (Recreation/ Historic) in DOC’s Wellington District Office.

Rangers Shane and Keith on Matiu/Somes Island.

On Matiu/ Somes Island with Keith Dyett

At work

Some things I do in my job… recently, I’ve mainly on Capital Projects. Replacing Kime Hut in the Tararua Ranges and an infrastructure project on Kapiti Island – a replacement wastewater system, new track, new toilet block and shelter upgrade. I also help out when I can with field operations.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… helping to improve the visitor experience; enabling people to get out and enjoy our amazing country safely and in relative comfort.

The best bit about my job is… the amazing people I work with every day. They’re all dedicated, committed and do great work. Also, getting out into the field and working in some stunning places.

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… listening to two grown men coming down the East Whakanui Track (Orongorongo Valley) using a bic lighter to see with. No names shall be mentioned, having left their run down too late they were caught out with no torch and their only light being a lighter. That is until one of them burnt his fingers and dropped the lighter, then the cursing and squabbling began. It took almost an hour for them to walk the final couple of hundred metres. It’s one of those had-to-be-there moments but very funny when you’re in the river bed listening.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Keith Dyett. He always has a smile, is dedicated to the work he does and would give the shirt off his back to anyone. He has turned out some top work in the Catchpool/Orongorongo Valleys over the year. If you’re ever in the valley listen out and you may hear him singing one of his many songs, “Seven Spanish Angels” or “God Made Little Green Apples” come to mind. Keith is an all round top bloke.

Ranger Shane with a takahē on Mana Island.

Why we do what we do – New Zealand’s special wildlife and places. A takahē on Mana Island

On a personal note…

My best ever holiday was… spending six months back packing and hitch-hiking through Ireland, Scotland and parts of Western Europe. Not booking anything and just seeing where the day took me. The hitch-hiking through Ireland and Scotland was in the middle of winter, which resulted in some long cold hours on the side of the road. It also resulted in meeting some really nice people, a full on snowball fight with some kids on the outskirts of Donegal, and an interesting couple of hours in a large truck and trailer unit on a narrow lane and a half tar-seal road barely wide enough for two cars to pass.

My greatest sporting moment was when… my name appeared at seventeenth on a national ranking list for squash. That same year I finished just outside the top twenty at the National Champs.

The best piece of news I’ve heard lately is… we’d like to offer you the Works Officer role in Te Anau, followed rapidly by my partner Wendy saying that she’d been offered a Partnerships role also in Te Anau.

My secret indulgence is… boutique brewery beers and single malt whisky. More often than not they are indulged in that order.

Before working at DOC I… spent twenty years working as a silviculture contractor in both Marlborough and South Otago. Three years working for the Forest Service based in Renwick and seventeen years as a self employed contractor. Saw some amazing country, met some interesting and colourful people and had a lot of laughs.


Who’s a clever seal? (United Kingdom, 2010)

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Every day above ground is a good day”. I think it’s from the movie ‘Scarface’.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… I’ve been given lots of advice over the years, a lot of it unprintable. The best bit being, ‘to give it a go and to back myself’.

In work and life I am motivated by… those people who dedicate long hours to their cause, whether it be sport administrators or the many volunteers that help us do what we do.

Shane at  Papatahi Hut, Orongorongo Valley.

A great place to be – Papatahi Hut, Orongorongo Valley

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… get involved; there are many amazing groups and individuals out there engaging in conservation. Make yourself known and get involved.

Question of the week…

What do you think are the top three inventions in human history? Micro breweries, single malt whisky and international travel. All three work well together, it’s always a good day out with friends whether you’re visiting a brewery, having a relaxing afternoon in the sun at a vineyard or calling into a distillery for a tasting.

Shane and his mum looking across to Stephens Island in the Marlborough Sounds.

Mother and son looking across to Stephens Island from D’Urville Island

Like loads of other New Zealanders (and many visitors to our shores) I love spending time out and about exploring our beautiful national parks, forests and reserves.

When I was growing up, it didn’t matter where we went, the green and yellow DOC signs were always there—an iconic part of holidays, camps, hunting trips and adventures into the bush. However, I never realised the huge job that DOC does to look after so many huts, campsites, tracks and places around the country.

DOC’s recent Annual Report helps shed some light on the range of things DOC looks after and shows how many New Zealanders are getting out and enjoying what’s on offer. Take a look, you might be surprised:


You can also read about what DOC has been doing to look after our historic heritage in last week’s blog post

Check out the DOC website for more information about:

DOC’s latest Annual Report

Parks and recreation