Our Director-General Lou Sanson announces the Stephen O’Dea Development Award winner and talks about World Ranger Day, DOC’s emergency responses, and visits from Ambassadors

Date:  31 July 2017

D-G Direct: An update from Lou.

World Ranger Day

Today is World Ranger Day, a day to acknowledge the work of rangers and remember those who have lost their lives or been seriously injured in their work for conservation.

I am sure you will join me in taking a moment out of your day to remember these individuals and their legacy.

One such person is Stephen O’Dea.

Stephen was the Field Centre Manager at Punakaiki who died along with 13 Tai Poutini Polytechnic students when the Cave Creek viewing platform collapsed on 28 April 1995.

The Stephen O'Dea Development Award was established in 1996 in his memory.

Helen Gillespie.
Helen Gillespie at Lake Kaniere

Today I am pleased to announce Helen Gillespie as the recipient of the 2017 Stephen O’Dea Award.

The intent of the award is to provide a professional development opportunity in conservation management.

Helen will use the award to undertake study that will assist in her role of progressing the development of Healthy Nature Healthy People in New Zealand. The Healthy Nature Healthy People and #NatureForAll are the most successful international launches we have seen for park agencies across the world since its launch at Sydney World Parks Congress in 2014. New Zealand aims to keep up with other leaders like Parks Canada, US National Park Service and Parks Victoria on the adoption of Healthy Nature Healthy People.

DOC steps up in emergencies

Our past 12 months has also seen our ranger staff at the core of DOC’s biggest ever responses to emergencies since we were set up. These include:

DOC’s biggest ever fire season in 30 years

One hundred staff responded to New Zealand’s most complex rural fire ever, the Port Hills Fire. DOC spent $13 million on fire control over 2016/17, including $4 million for Port Hills.

Myrtle rust

Myrtle rust has been New Zealand’s largest ever biosecurity response, with 350 staff having reprioritised other conservation work to assist MPI respond to myrtle rust in Taranaki, Northland and Te Puke.

New Zealand’s second largest whale stranding

Our Nelson staff led the response to the stranding of 600 pilot whales on Farewell Spit in February. This was the second largest whale stranding since 1915 and also involved 800 volunteers.

Volunteers at the whale stranding.
Pilot whale stranding, Farewell Spit

Kaikoura Earthquake

Our Kaikoura team took critical Civil Defence leadership roles within hours of the earthquake, and more than 500 staff have been involved in recovery and response.

US Ambassador visits Kapiti Island

Recently, I was able to visit Kapiti Island with US Ambassador Scott Brown and his wife Gail. Our Kapiti Wellington Office staff organised a wonderful pōwhiri with Ngāti Toa and Taranaki Whānui. John Barrett (Kapiti Island Nature Tours) provided all our logistics. The US Government generously gave DOC $50,000 to recognise the US National Park Centennial, and along with US Embassy staff we have upgraded all our interpretation panels along the track to the summit of Kapiti and built a large enclosure fence to keep weka away from seabird breeding sites.

Since Richard Henry shifted five little spotted kiwi from Jackson Bay to Kapiti in 1912, there are now 1,500 little spotted kiwi on Kapiti Island. The other extraordinary recovery of birds on Kapiti has been; an increase to 100 hihi since 2008, and an increase to 50 pairs of kōkako since 1995.

Group on Kapiti shore.
Lee Barry (DOC), Gail Brown, US Ambassador Scott Brown, Lou Sanson (DOC)

Kapiti Island rangers

Group next to a pou.
John Barrett (Ngāti Toa, has spent 50 years working on Kapiti Island and runs Kapiti Island Nature Tours), Genevieve Spargo, Theo, and Nick Fisentzidis

As we celebrate World Ranger Day I want to acknowledge the unique DOC families that staff our island nature reserves.

I was delighted to meet Nick Fisentzidis, Genevieve Spargo and their six-month-old baby, Theo, on Kapiti Island recently.

Nick came from our Nelson trainee ranger scheme and met Genevieve when they were both on their first day at work in Wellington Office on reception. Over five years they worked in procurement and threats prior to moving to Kapiti five years ago.

Now they host 8,000 visitors a year, look after wildlife projects, fix power and sewage and ensure biosecurity. Winds of 65 knots often hit their house from the south.

French Ambassador visits the Chatham Islands

Last week our Chatham Islands team hosted Minister Finlayson, Ambassador of France Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and US Chargé d’Affaires Candy Green on the Chatham Islands.

New Zealand’s model of achieving conservation by working in partnership with others and our Predator Free 2050 vision is gaining increasing international attention. Candy was instrumental in helping the US and New Zealand governments recognise the US National Parks Centennial.

Standing in tussock field.
Ambassador of France Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and US Chargé d’Affaires Candy Green, Chatham Islands

Florence and Sabine.
Florence Jeanblanc-Risler and Sabine Bernert with Sabine’s latest New Zealand wildlife book

The French Ambassador has visited most of our national parks and we are exploring a joint exhibition in Paris next year on New Zealand nature, featuring French nature photographer Sabine Bernert ,who visits New Zealand every year and supplies many of our fantastic wildlife images we use in our communications documents.

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