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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 Motueka ranger Tom Young…

At work…

Taking in the spectacular scenery in Milford Sounds

Name: Tom Young

Position: Ranger, Visitor/Historic, Motueka Area Office

What kind of things do you do in your role?

My role is pretty varied, with about 70% office and 30% field work. I am involved in a wide variety of work. I manage the Asset Management Information System (AMIS) database for the Motueka Area Office which keeps me pretty busy, and I also have several capital projects to manage each year. Back in March, we moved an old Forest Service six-bunk hut from the Right Branch Wairoa to Porters Creek in the Red Hills of Mt Richmond Forest Park—that was a challenge and great fun!

I also manage the area’s historic assets—from 1870’s gold workings in the Wangapeka, to Heritage Buildings in the centre of Nelson. I am busy with signage projects across the area and complete regular data and photo monitoring as part of the visitor monitoring (numbers and impacts) across the area. As well as all that, I enjoy getting out in the backcountry assisting the track team on track and hut maintenance projects.

What is the best part about your job?

What does it for me is the whole variety of work and the different places I get to go within the area. I get out and about a fair bit, from the very popular Abel Tasman Coast and its tens of thousands of visitors, to the relative remoteness of Mt Richmond Forest Park. It really is the variety and blend of work that does it for me. 

Crossing Big River with Steve Bagley returning from Kahurangi Point

What is the hardest part about your job?

I wouldn’t say any part was harder than the rest, it’s just different. Coordinating work, logistics and getting on with colleagues, contractors and staff is sometimes challenging. I believe the key is to manage your work and time, to be there for others and to not over-commit yourself.

What led you to your role in DOC?

I’ve been with the Department for just over eight years now. Before that, I was a Ranger in Scotland for 11 years, and some time before that I served 12 and a half years in the British Navy (much of that time in the Submarine Service). Once the Cold War was over, they gave me a medal and the Admiralty said, “Thanks, you’ve saved us from the Soviets but we don’t need you any longer”, so I decided to pursue a career as a Ranger. I went to College/Polytech for two years, and then picked up some seasonal Ranger work in central Scotland, before getting my first full time Ranger position in 1992.

HMS Torbay, my last sea posting

My family and I came to New Zealand for a month’s holiday and to stay with a friend in Nelson back in December 2000. We came back for 12 months in April 2002 while my wife completed a Commonwealth Teacher Exchange, then later in 2003 I applied for and got offered my first position with DOC at Nelson Lakes (I’m sure what swung the job for me was the fact that in Scotland I had been using an Asset Management System called CAMS, and at that time the Department’s system was called VAMS. Similar name, but quite different!). I took the job at Nelson Lakes with the idea that we might go back to Scotland after a couple of years or so, but here I am eight years later—I’m now in the Motueka Area Office—and still enjoying it.

What was the highlight of your month just gone?

I spent Christmas with my family and friends in Richmond, worked only a couple of days between Christmas and New Year and joined other friends for New Year at their bach in Kaiteriteri. I enjoyed the awesome firework display from the beach at midnight and a walk to Hardwoods’ Hole on the 1st of January. I spent four days last week cycling the 160km Central Otago Rail trail with my wife Fiona, youngest son Findlay and a couple of good friends. That was great—lots of stops on the way for coffee, refreshments, Jimmy’s pies, photographs and even a  revitalising dip in the Manuheriki River, as well as some exercise and lots of fresh air. A great time was had by all. 

Pedal pushing on the Otago Rail Trail

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. Family, of course. I have two boys aged eighteen and eleven years. It’s great to see them grow up and develop, and support them through school and sport and whatever interests them. And of course my wife, Fiona.
  2. Coffee. Yes, I know it’s a drug. But I like it.
  3. Scotland/Caledonia/Alba/Ecosse—whatever you want to call it. It’s in my tartan blood/genes/history.

Pet peeves

  1. Some of the leucocratic nonsense we have to go through, not only in work, but also in our everyday life. Life’s complicated enough, keep it simple!   
  2. Umbrellas. They are fine if there is nobody else within four or five metres of you, but (maybe it’s because I’m tall) there’s always the danger of being skewered by one of the pointy bits or worse, getting your eye poked out. If you’re in a busy place with lots of people and want to keep the rain off, leave the brolly behind and get a good jacket with a hood!

Three things always in your fridge

Always in my fridge? Probably the usual stuff—milk, cheese, the shelves and the little light that comes on when you open the door. Oops, that’s four things!

Lunch with Visitor Asset Managers after meeting at Kahurangi Point Keepers House

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Without having been everywhere it’s pretty hard to say. I do enjoy being in the mountains and above the bush line—on a fine day! I love the vastness of the country and the alpine vegetation, the snow tussock, speargrass, Spaniard, mountain buttercups and daisies and many other mountain herbs.
  2. I also love the wild West Coast beaches such as Wharariki in Golden Bay—the wind, the eroded sandstone arches, the changing sands and the relatively unspoilt wildness of it all.   
  3. I do like Nelson as an area. A great climate, a great variety of places to go—coast, mountains, plains, city etc., good mountain biking trails, great cafes and lots of friends to visit.

Favourite movie, album, book

It’s too hard to pick just one.

  • Movie: The Usual Suspects with Kevin Spacey, As Good as it Gets with Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt, and for a side-splitting laugh, Mr Bean’s Holiday with Rowan Atkinson as Mr Bean.   
  • Book: I do enjoy a good historical conspiracy theory with a bit of drama. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown was pretty damn good, but again, there are so, so many contenders.
  • Album: I’d have to choose between Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones or Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan. But there are so many great albums out there.

Deep and meaningful…

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

With Stu Houston, installing new shelter at Holyoake's Clearing, Abel Tasman Inland Track

Enjoy what you do, and do what you enjoy! Think before you speak, its easier to bite your lip than to repair damaged relationships. Respect others.

Who or what inspires you and why?

I have recently been inspired by the British particle physicist Professor Brian Cox. He is a brilliant public and science presenter/broadcaster. To me, he is starting out on the path of doing for physics what David Attenborough has done for natural history. In plain, easy to follow language he uses the media to bring an understanding of science to the masses. In addition to his programmes Wonders of the Solar System and Wonders of the Universe, and the comedy radio programme The Infinite Monkey Cage, Brian has worked on the ATLAS experiment on the Large Hadron Particle Collider in Switzerland and on modifying Newton’s law on gravity.

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

Mmmmm… that was a long, long time ago! I did want to travel and see the world, and I guess that in part led me to my time in the Royal Navy, where I spent most of my time deep down under the sea (how deep is a secret).

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

I really enjoyed my Ranger job in Scotland. I would like to think that there would still be a role there for me, and that I could contribute to the conservation and countryside management back there. As a Ranger in the UK, I did a load more environmental education, public access work and management of reserves close to urban and populated areas, which I really enjoyed. I could do that again. 

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

With my love for the mountains (on a good day), I’d be a Chequered Alpine Snout Moth. I’d check out the alpine passes, breath in the cool mountain air, enjoy the vista and miss the wild, wet, cold and snowy winter, (because they only live from November to February). 

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

Enjoy, appreciate and conserve what we currently have. It’s not just the fauna and flora, the landscape, the huts and tracks, the forest, the lakes and rivers and the ocean—it’s everything, including the smells and the sounds, the wind and the warmth, the time, the energy and the space. I believe many New Zealanders generally don’t really appreciate how fortunate we are and what we have in our own back yards. Too often it’s only when it’s gone that we realise what we have lost—and then it’s too late.