Archives For working at DOC

Every Friday Jobs at DOC takes 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 DOC Visitor Centre/i-Site Ranger Ivy Willmott.

A good day at work

Name: Ivy Willmott.

Position: Ranger, DOC Visitor Centre/i-SITE. 

At work…

What kind of things do you do in your role?

Being one of the front line laydees of goodness and joy at the Franz Josef Visitor Center and i-SITE, I answer phones, radios and lots and lots of questions every day. I chat about everything from the weather, DOC projects, campsites, tramping, day hikes, Great Walks, hunting, fishing, the glaciers, travel, New Zealand, Franz, Fox, eating, drinking, jumping out of planes, riding horses… the list is endless!

We are constantly learning—thank goodness for the awesome DOC website with the answers to nearly any DOC-related question.

I help book people onto whatever activity they want to do, find and book accommodation all over New Zealand, sort out travel plans… basically help folks have the best holiday/trip possible. I LOVE IT!!!

What is the best part about your job?

Helping people smile and enjoy their day and remove the stress that many folks seem to find on holiday! Crazy Moogs!

Every day is a happy day!

Watching the wave of relief wash over folks as bookings are made, travel plans are sorted, and watching the good holiday juju work it’s way back onto their faces as they trot off to enjoy this beautiful country.

Followed swiftly by getting to sample all the amazing activities on offer in the area in the name of research… Yeeaaaaaooooooow! AWESOME! You gotta know it to sell it!

Franz Josef Glacier hike

What is the hardest part about your job?

Trying to convince people you have no control over the West Coast weather. Rude people, impatient people, and trying to keep the ability to smile over it all. Not being able to wear bright colours! Ha, nah, it’s all sweet… not much to not be happy about here!

What led you to your role in DOC?

I’m originally from Scotland with a career as a Theatre Stage Manager. Nine years of fun and mischief worldwide led me to New Zealand, where I have been for eight years. Working with environmental community groups in the resource recovery field for the last three years, but having a yearning for the West Coast, led me to Franz Josef.

As well as having a good crew of mates that worked within the department, but mostly the awesome Kiwi team here on the coast and their enthusiasm for their work. The opportunity arose to join the wonderful Visitor Centre/i-SITE team and here I am… BooOm!!!

Quadbiking in Nelson, Happy Valley

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Well, research this month was pretty spectacular. Going on two glacier heli trips was pretty amazing, hmmmmm, so was horse trekking on a crispy sunny spotless winter morning with breathtaking views over Mount Elie De Beaumont….

But what did take the biscuit was my first Area day. Getting to put faces to the names and voices I deal with daily. Getting to see what all the different groups have been up to for the past year. Awesome jobs all round, and that’s just our Area!

The rule of 3…

3 loves

  1. My dog Munter.
  2. Having dreams and ambitions and having them coming true.
  3. Good recyclers. 

3 pet peeves

  1. Litter on the roadside… actually litter anywhere it shouldn’t be.
  2. Rude people.
  3. Lateness.

3 foods

  1. Pizza.
  2. Rock and roll chick pea gravy and mash (recipe available on request!).
  3. Roast chicken and veg cooked in the camp oven on the beach at sunset!

3 favourite places in New Zealand

  1. Any of the wonderful South Island West Coast beaches…. The salty wind on your face, the sound of crashing waves, sunset, wine and good friends—heaven.
  2. The summit of Treble Cone after a big snow dump, bluebird day, good friends, chocolate and mulled wine. The snowy mountains and Lake Wanaka feeding the soul.
  3. I have to say, sitting up at Almer Hut having a picnic with the laydees on Boxing Day, looking down the Franz Josef Glacier and out to the Tasman sea was ridiculously special! 

Hmmmmm I feel a theme… nature, fine food, fine wine, and fine friends, and I’m a happy gal.

Snowboarding up Treble Cone summit

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie: Oooh a toss up between Big Fish and Cinema Paradiso.
  • Album: The Band – The Band.
  • Book: The Power of One.

Deep and meaningful…

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

I would love to think sense has got the better of me and I would say ‘Do something that will make you money’. Ha, but nope, I think it would be ‘Follow your dream, don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it, but maybe learn a skill like welding, or cheffing or hairdressing to help you out of those tight financial spots!’ Hmmmm…. also, ‘Don’t leave it until your mid 30s to try Brandy Alexander’s!’

Me and my juggling clubs

Who or what inspires you and why?

My mum…. Not only did she teach me the joys of self sufficiency, she always taught me to follow my heart; that no dream is too big, and it’s never too late to change. Always do what makes you happy. She definitely taught me to keep my cup half full.

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

A Stage Manager… from as soon as I knew that was actually a job!

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

A bread baking, veggie growing, cheese making, goat milking, fine feast making mum.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

Less is more! Reduce and reuse before you recycle, and if you have to buy something, buy a good make—more expensive, but will last a lot longer than most of the plastic nonsense about these days.

Picnic lunch up Almer Hut

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

I definitely want to get my veg patch cranking! I finally have a garden space to do this. Wooohooo….

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

Definitely a kereru. So plump and happy, hanging out getting drunk on rata berries all day, trying to fly my plump self about, and such beautiful colours!

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

Reduce, reuse then recycle. Stop driving when you don’t have to… and when you recycle…WASH and SQUASH!!!

Every Monday 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.

This week we meet freshwater ecologist, David Kelly

At work…

Fisheries survey on Six-foot Lake, Campbell Island

Name: David Kelly

Position: Scientific Officer, Freshwater Section R&D, Christchurch

What kind of things do you do in your role?

A combination of managing science projects, developing tools for more effectively managing freshwaters (such as flow management models and conservation ranking tools), and providing technical advice in varying capacities on freshwater management

I spend a reasonable amount of time working with some of the Conservancy planners and solicitors around RMA processes.

I work with some of the other sections in National Office, such as the Policy Group, on inputting ideas to national policy statements and environmental standards. 

I work quite a bit with scientists and managers from other organisations such as CRIs, universities, and regional councils on various freshwater projects. 

What is the best part about your job?

By far the best part of my job is being out there and getting wet. As with most people who work for DOC, it’s my love of the environment, and particularly rivers and lakes, that drives me. So pursuing a career as a freshwater ecologist means that I have the privilege of spending time out there submersed in my study medium.

I dive, I wade, and I flop around on the banks in my waders like a clumsy seal, and it’s all great. Like all fieldwork, there are days when you say ‘I can’t believe I am getting paid to do this’, and then there are the days when I say ‘There is no way I’m getting paid enough to do this’ – usually as sleet is falling in a howling southerly.

The freshwater team on a weekend excursion up the Rakaia River

What is the hardest part about your job?

The hardest part of my job is the amount of contract management I do. Because we are a small section, a significant amount of this work is done externally through other science providers. This involves a lot of process and paperwork, which is a little less inspiring than either running experiments, or analysing data.

What led you to your role in DOC?

It’s a bit of a long story how I ended up here: I was finishing graduate school in Canada, and co-taught a course on coastal limnology (the study of freshwaters) with a kiwi—Warrick Vincent—who was then working at Laval University in Quebec City.

Warrick is one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met. It was through Warrick that I made contact with some of his colleagues from NIWA, where I came to work (with the lakes team in Christchurch) for a number of years.

I was co-managing a project between NIWA and DOC, on a national lowland lakes examination, and eventually DOC advertised a position within their newly formed freshwater section to run this work. The thought of working for an organisation that is more directly linked to conservation management was really attractive to me, so I applied.

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

It would have to be attending the combined meeting of the Freshwater Science societies of both New Zealand and Australia in Brisbane. It was great to see what is going on across the ditch in terms of their approaches to managing freshwater under some very challenging circumstances (multi-year droughts), and to get to share some of our projects and ideas with them.

The rule of three…

Three loves

  1. My family
  2. Fishing
  3. Hunting… my wife might question whether that is really the correct order, but I’m holding strong on this one.

Three pet peeves

  1. Earthquakes—having to abandon my home in Christchurch; surprise
  2. The lack of thermal insulation in buildings—come on, what latitude is it here anyhow? 
  3. Way too much sport in the news—never with any coverage of ice hockey I might add.

Three things always in your fridge

  1. Milk, because I can’t even begin a conversation in the morning without at least one latte in me.
  2. Finely crafted homemade beer, for which I have a ‘special fridge’ with in-built taps.
  3. Wild venison salami—because making pizzas in my wood-fired brick oven is truly the highlight of all my cooking experiences; man-flame-outdoors-large tools-wild meat-pizza. Mmmmmmm.

The pizza oven on Christmas day lunch at Inangahua

Three favourite places in New Zealand

  1. My bach on the Inangahua River, where I am now lucky enough to live for a stint while the earthquake aftermath unfolds in Christchurch (working out of the Kawatiri Area Office temporarily, so thanks to the folks there for making me welcome). 
  2. Campbell Island—wow, what a place to see wildlife up close and personal, my most memorable DOC trip ever!
  3. The wild and free West Coast back-country rivers—fishing and hunting nirvanas, I’d tell you which ones, but then I’d have to kill you.

A day exploring Campbell Island

Favourite movie, album, book

  1. Movie: The Big Lebowski—’The Dude’ cracks me up every time, and laughing is one of the most important things in life.
  2. Album: It’s nearly impossible to narrow it to one, but by the sheer amount of enjoyment I’ve gotten from spinning the vinyl version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon makes it the winner.
  3. Book: It has to be a quirky one, possibly Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins.

Deep and meaningful…

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

Make sure you do something you enjoy, and don’t hurry into it, it’s all about the journey—not where you get to.

Who or what inspires you and why?

Really smart people who know a lot about a whole range of things. I like to see people that are not only good at their jobs but at a range of things outside work that they can pass along to others. And my six month old son Jasper, whose smiles and giggles make even the worst day all make sense.

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

Funnily enough a doctor, but I think this was subliminally instilled in me by my mother. Once I was older and realised how many people were on the planet, my far greater concern was to help other species.

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

Possibly a fishing guide, I love being out on rivers and I think I could watch fish all day.

A good haul for the freezer

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

I reckon an octopus—they are so smart, can squeeze through the tiniest of spaces to uncover delicious crayfish, and how handy would it be to have even three arms let alone eight?

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

Learn from the experiences of other countries that have much higher population densities, and don’t let the incredible natural assets you have erode away.

Every Monday 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.

This week Gary Coles’ colleagues provide us with his Jobs at DOC story, with a few quotes from the man himself.  Gary turned 60 on Sunday 16 October. So Gaz, we salute you!

Name: Gary Coles (or Gaz to us).

Just starting out, New Zealand Forest Service 1970’s

Job title and location:

Ranger – Asset and Historic, Maniapoto Area Office, friend to all creatures great and small (that aren’t pests), and all-round good guy. 

Describe his role:

It all started a long, long time ago…

Back in 1970, when many of us were being born, Garry attended the Golden Downs training school run by the New Zealand Forest Service. After graduating, Gary went on to assist with cutting and forming the Heaphy and Whangapeka tracks. After stints in the Ashley and Balmoral Forests in North Canterbury, Gary headed north to Pureora Forest Park in 1986 to carry out animal pest control. Upon the amalgamation of the NZFS, NZWLS and Lands and Surveys in 1987, Gary started his career with the Department in Te Kuiti, and the rest is history…

So, what makes him so special?

Pest control in Pureora

Gary’s a bit of an icon around these parts—a quiet chap with an encyclopaedic knowledge of local and historic information. In fact, one of the most frequently used sayings around the office is “Dunno, ask Gaz.”

Time in the field with Gary is an important part of any new recruit’s induction. We know they’ve been well tutored about all things technical, geographical and historical by the time they are returned!

And at the end of each working day, Gaz always calls by the office for a quick yarn and a laugh, before heading off home to fix some kind of machine or tend to his native plant nursery in the back shed.

What kind of work does he specialise in?

You could say that Gary is an honorary Master (track) Builder. Pretty much all of the tracks around our area have been worked on by Gaz at some stage. Also, he’s a superb lawn mower!

What does he always take with him when he’s out in the field?

Did someone say there were sardines?

“A good lunch (including sardines), tea bags and a thermos, a good first aid kit for the guests and I never leave home without today’s newspaper!”

What’s one of his funniest moments at work?

Gaz has had many, but the funniest one we heard (and a general testament to Gary’s uncanny compassion toward nature) was when he was recently working at the Arohena campsite one dark and thunderous day…

After a busy morning cleaning the campsite and feeding his pet trout in a secluded inlet up stream of the local Anglers hut, Gaz took a moment of quiet contemplation to catch up with the latest on the Rugby World Cup in the new corrugated iron loo. While engrossed in an editorial by Andrew Mehrtons on the perils of Argentinean front row facial hair in the scrum, a bolt of lighting and a boom of thunder unleashed an earth shattering blast over head sending a nomadic family of pukekos racing into Gary’s stall for cover. Undeterred by the invasion of privacy, Gaz quietly pushed the door open with his foot (in case they needed to return) and carried on reading his paper. Eye witness accounts swear they saw a hint of smoke coming from the ablution block after the bang!

Dismantling the hut in Pureora (not the loo at Arohena…)

Tell us about his 15 minutes of fame

Aside from discovering the toe bones of a giant Moa on his family farm near Marton, Gaz recently took a group of fit, hardcore hunters half his age to do some maintenance work on the Waitomo Walkway to Ruakuri. By the end of the day, word got around that he’d not only out-worked these blokes, but had also out-walked them back to the car park, confirming his legendary status to all the young’uns back at HQ in Te Kuiti.

What few words of wisdom would he like to pass onto all those young’uns just starting out?

“If it’s hard at the start, it generally gets easier over time…”

What does he like to do when he’s not at work?

“Fossil hunting along the rugged west coast in my kayak with a mate, then restoring old machinery and a touch of gardening to finish.”

“It’ll be as good as gold in no time…” - Fisholeening at Pureora

Does he have a special skill/quirk/strange fact that people may not know about him?

Come on Gaz, everybody has one… Gary always eats sardines for lunch so we reckon that’s why he’s got such shiny hair!

What’s a book that he recommends all DOC staff should read?

Waireinga/Bridal Veil Falls near Raglan

“Tuwharetoa, by John Te H. Grace. It traces 600 years of events starting with their arrival in the Arawa canoe during the fourteenth century up to the present day. An amazing read! Complex battles, alliances, feuds and migrations which shaped the history of the tribe”.

Three loves

“Any kind of old machinery that needs restoring, then nature, nature and more nature! One of the best chapters in my life so far was the time I spent working on island sanctuaries, such as those in the Mercury Island Group”.

Three pet peeves

“Lazy people, lazy people who dump their rubbish around campsites and lazy people who dump their rubbish in our reserves.”

If there was a competition for best place in New Zealand where would get his vote?

Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park.

And if there was one native species that ruled them all, what would be his pick?

The female tunnel web spider! She’s beautiful. She’s big, she’s hairy and she’s one whole lot of female you don’t want to mess with…” 

And finally…

Thanks Gaz, for letting us share some of your more memorable moments with everyone. You’re one of those great DOC identities who really make a difference to the area you work in. So, from all the troops in Maniapoto, happy birthday mate!