As part of the Conservation Awards this year, DOC Otago decided to celebrate two major milestones. One – the Department of Conservation turns 25 years old. Two – the amazing contribution the public has made (and is making) to conservation.
We were so inspired by these achievements that we decided to share with them with the rest of the country – the world even! To this end we got documentary filmmaker Claudia Babirat to produce two short videos for the big screen. This is what she has to say:
Ever since I was a little girl, DOC has been like a hero to me. The rangers did amazing things like save wildlife from the brink of extinction, controlled nasty predators, worked as archaeologists. I had a secret dream that one day I too would work for DOC. But wildlife filmmaking and science writing was always my number one passion.
That’s why, when DOC asked me if I wanted to make a couple of films about conservation in Otago (my home province), I jumped at the chance
The first film celebrates the fact that DOC turns 25 years old this year.
One of the things that really impressed me was just how many of the original rangers (i.e. from the establishment in 1987) are still around. They’ve dedicated their lives to conservation, and I think that’s pretty inspirational.
The other thing that struck me was how much of what we take for granted these days, has been the result of DOC’s hard work. For example, popular attractions like the Otago Central Rail Trail, which brings in an estimated $12 million to the province’s communities each year, was actually strongly opposed when its formation was first suggested! We now have conservation parks dedicated to tussock grasslands (as opposed to just forests). Several new species of rare galaxiids (a type of freshwater fish, which includes whitebait) in Otago were discovered as recently as the 1990s. The list goes on.
The second film recognises the fact that it hasn’t just been DOC that has contributed to all of these amazing achievements. In fact, many of them wouldn’t have been possible without the help and dedication of a whole range of people, including passionate individuals and volunteers, community groups, trusts, iwi, local authorities, landowners, and businesses. Each contribute in their own unique way – from fencing off their creek banks to help protect spawning sites for giant kokopu (one of those freshwater galaxiids I mentioned), to building and maintaining predator-proof sanctuaries, to providing sponsorship for long-term protection of precious wildlife such as the jewelled gecko and the takahe.
Producing the second film gave me a lot of hope for New Zealand’s future There are so many people out there who are passionate about conservation in New Zealand, and we can all make a difference.
In fact, I was so inspired that I made my child-hood dream a reality. I now work for DOC Otago as Community Outreach Coordinator – a brand new position aimed at helping more communities take part in conservation and enjoy all the things that make New Zealand the beautiful place it is.