Archives For Taranaki

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 Callum Lilley, Biodiversity Ranger in Taranaki.

At work

Callum Lilley holding a dotterel. Photo: Emily King.

Feeding time for New Zealand dotterel/tūturiwhatu

Some things I do in my job include… marine reserve monitoring, maintaining marine reserve infrastructure, compliance, marine mammal work, making recommendations on a range of things such as Resource Management Act consent applications/renewals, permits, seismic survey impact assessments, writing management plans, reports, public relations material, providing advice and information on marine matters, liaising/working with community groups, iwi, other stakeholders, bird rescue, assisting with fire responses, and helping out in other areas when called upon.

This helps achieve DOC’s vision by… helping to look after our natural heritage, and working with others to do so too.

The best bit about my job is… getting out on the water (particularly if marine mammals or diving are involved), and the occasional opportunity to go away on an adventure.

Callum deploying video equipment off a boat. Photo: Bryan Williams.

Deploying baited underwater video equipment, Tapuae Marine Reserve

The funniest DOC moment I’ve had so far is… a pest fish scare. The threats team in New Plymouth thought they would invite the Taranaki Daily News along to watch them catch a “koi carp” (to raise awareness about pest fish). The orange shape they had previously observed in a murky river turned out to be a road cone. It was an amusing article and it took up half of page (including a large colour photo). The rest of the office got a lot of mileage out of it.

The DOC (or previous DOC) employee that inspires or enthuses me most is… Bill Fleury. There are so many people I could choose from, but one of them is Bill. I appreciate his understanding of all levels of the Department (having worked in positions ranging from on the ground to providing strategic advice on a myriad of matters). He has exceptional analytical skills and great demeanour (as an aside, some say that I model my desk on Bill’s).

Callum surfing a wave in Fiji.

Surfing tropical waters, Frigates – Fiji

On a personal note…

The song that always cheers me up is… ‘Three Little Birds’ by Bob Marley.

My stomping ground is… coastal Taranaki. It’s where I grew up and where I love to spend time. It has good fishing, isolated beaches, great waves, the Stony River/Hangatahua, a friend/whanau base and the best view of Maunga Taranaki.

My best ever holiday was… a three week trip to Fiji a couple of years ago. Emily and I busted out of a cold Taranaki winter into the tropics for some epic diving, surfing, fishing, eating, drinking and exploring.

If I wasn’t working at DOC, I’d like to… start a microbrewery.

Before working at DOC I… studied (BSc – Zoology, MSc – Marine Science), worked on a computer help desk, worked as a block-layer’s labourer building a rugby stadium, and taught English in South Korea.

Mount Taranaki in the background at dusk.

View of Mt Taranaki from “Graveyards” surf break

Deep and meaningful…

My favourite quote is… “Give the laziest person the hardest job and they’ll find the easiest way to do it”. Not sure who first said it, or whether it is really true, but a great quote none the less.

The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is… be nice to people.

In work and life I am motivated by… people that are fun to be around, whilst still cracking on and getting a job done.

My conservation advice to New Zealanders is… live modestly and outsource less. Grow your own food, cook from scratch, brew your own beverages (reuse glass and no longer worry about what the neighbours think on recycling day), pickle and preserve, hunt and eat pests… as much as you can, go back to basics.

A Southern right whale and her calf off the coast of Whanganui.

Southern right whale/tohora mother and calf, Whanganui

Question of the week…

As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up? A pilot or an electrician, until I was told they were no longer options as I was colour blind. However, I wanted to be a marine scientist from when I was about 10 years old.

A sea lion by Callum's boat in the Auckland Islands.

Um… could we please have our boat back? Hoiho survey, Auckland Islands

The Taranaki Young Conservationists group empowers young people to engage with conservation through a social, fun approach. Co-founder Dion Cowely tells us about the work they do…

Dion standing on a hill at Rotokare Sanctuary.

The beautiful Rotokare Sanctuary

What does your group do?
We provide the opportunity for young people interested in conservation to network with like minded people in a social setting (the pub) and get involved in local restoration projects.

Who can join?
Anyone who wants to, but we focus on attracting young people (older than 18 and younger than 60).

What sparked you to form this group?
A couple of our founding members attended the local Forest and Bird meetings for a while and realised that there was no one attending under the age of 50. The chair of North Taranaki Forest and Bird encouraged them to start something up for young people and so the Taranaki Young Conservationists were born.

A clearing in the bush at Paraninihi (White Cliffs), Taranaki.

Paraninihi (White Cliffs), Taranaki

Do you work with other conservation groups in the community?
Yes, we have worked with the Rotokare Sanctuary, Tiaki Te Mauri O Paraninihi Trust and North Taranaki Forest and Bird on their respective projects.

What are you doing for Conservation Week?
Our Conservation Week event is more about fun than conservation. We are holding an R18 Cloak of Protection night. It’s a drinks and baking affair aimed to introduce adults to this popular card game commonly used by Enviroschools.

What is the best moment your group has had so far?
We had a good time helping out Conrad and the Tiaki Te Mauri O Paraninihi Trust with their pest control programme. We got to explore a remote and normally inaccessible part of Taranaki and Conrad was really stoked we helped out and provided a mean feed back at the marae after we had finished for the day. 

Trapping work at Paraninihi (White Cliffs), Taranaki.

Helping out Tiaki Te Mauri O Paraninihi Trust with trapping

Do you have any great conservation advice to share with our readers?
Our focus is to make conservation fun. If it’s not fun people are reluctant to give up their spare time.

How do I join?
Come along to one of our events. Simply like us on Facebook or email me at


Sorrel Hoskin, from DOC’s Taranaki Area Office, writes about St Joseph’s Primary School’s recent visit to Egmont National Park to learn about the work being done to protect the endangered whio/blue duck:

Combine 90 excited primary school kids, two passionate DOC rangers, and an enthusiastic regional council educator. Top up with fun facts about whio and mix well. Result? A slightly chaotic but fun filled day of learning about one of our special species, the whio.

Students line up outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre.

The group outside the North Egmont Visitor Centre – the mountain is hidden behind the clouds

Taranaki school students recently spent a day out in Egmont National Park. As it was Whio Awareness Month DOC staff took the opportunity to share some of the work they do on the mountain to help protect the endangered duck.

Biodiversity ranger Emily King usually works with whio and kiwi – so a gaggle of chattering five year olds was a whole new experience, but she soon had them captivated with cool facts about our only white water swimming duck.

Ranger shows students how the stoat trap works.

Ranger Mike demonstrates the stoat trap – SNAP!

There are around 60 whio living in Egmont National Park and ongoing monitoring and pest control is key to their survival and population growth. DOC carries out this work with support from the Central North Island Conservation Charitable Blue Duck Trust and East Taranaki Environment Trust. The good news is the population is growing.

Whio Awareness Month was celebrated throughout New Zealand to recognise the “Whio Forever” project, a Genesis Energy/DOC partnership helping implement a national recovery plan to protect whio breeding areas and habitat. The idea is to double the number of fully secure breeding sites throughout the country and boost pest control to enhance productivity and survival.

A student, 5 year old Asten, holds a stuffed stoat.

Five year old Asten gets close to a stoat

Community relations ranger Mike Tapp set up a game of predator hide and seek along a bush walk. Kids had fun finding the stoat, rat, cat, weasel and ferret hidden amongst the undergrowth, and learnt about some of the key predators of the whio and other native birds.

Taranaki Regional Council’s Kevin Archer took groups of children for a walk through some of the forest – pointing out where whio and other native birds might like to live.

While feedback from the students was mixed and often amusing (who knew that polar bears were a major predator of whio?) some of the key messages were getting through.

A whio swimming in the stream.

A whio swimming in the stream.

Five year old Jordon’s favorite part of the day was seeing Ranger Mike set off the predator trap to squash the animals that attack whio, “The trap went SNAP!”

St Joseph’s teacher Jenna Sullivan said the day had been a great success and showed how a school, DOC and the regional council can come together to create a real hands on learning experience for the kids.