Meet Auckland's park protectors

Last Updated : 14 Feb 2020
Park protectors - the rangers protecting Auckland's environment
Dan Marrow

As Aucklanders flock to our 27 stunning regional parks over the summer months, we celebrate four Auckland Council park rangers who tell Hayden Donnell what they love about their jobs, what they’re doing to ensure our precious natural environment is protected for future generations, and how you can help.

Dan Marrow

North Metro and Hibiscus and Bays Parks

Dan Marrow does a lot of his most important conservation work inside an office. In his role as a community park ranger, he trains and co-ordinates the volunteer groups who plant trees, eliminate weeds, and trap pests in parks across Auckland’s north. It’s a key function because many of the most successful conservation initiatives wouldn’t be possible without committed volunteers.

Much of Marrow’s work over the summer is focused on protecting and nurturing the seedlings planted as part of Mayor Phil Goff’s Million Trees programme. He asks volunteers to kill weeds that threaten new plants. “I like to call it ‘plant love’ or ‘plant care’. You don’t have a baby and say, ‘job done’, when it’s born. It’s the same with seedlings. They need to be looked after for three or four years.”

While some conservation projects are long-term efforts, many of the volunteers Marrow works with see the fruits of their labour almost immediately. “I’ve got one guy on a reserve in Browns Bay who has kākā coming over and feeding on his deck. Those are the kinds of stories that make it all worthwhile.”

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Miranda Bennett

Miranda Bennett

Hunua Ranges

Miranda Bennett had an incredibly busy week recently, when she did almost nothing but work. If she had a regular job, she might have felt nothing but relief when it was over. Instead, she looked back and felt a sense of pride and gratitude. She’d seen a band put on a kōkako chick’s leg to monitor it, gone out at night looking for long-tailed bats, and spent a day in a stream looking for a threatened frog species. “I just thought, wow, this is pretty cool. I’ve seen three threatened species in the space of a week. This is why I love my job,” she says.

Bennett is a ranger who manages conservation initiatives across Auckland’s southern parks. A lot of her work is focused on the Hunua Ranges, where she’s part of a multiagency effort to restore native bird populations. The project she’s most excited about right now is eliminating stoats and ferrets from a patch of native bush, paving the way for kiwi to be reintroduced to the area. She sees it as another step towards renewing the ranges and making them a destination where people can reliably get close to native animals.

“I’ve got two little boys and it’s about making a better place for them, making sure there are beautiful outdoor spaces for them in their future and getting the next generation loving the bush as much as I do.”

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Erica Paterson

Erica Paterson

Ōmana Regional Park

Erica Paterson struggles to describe her job. Sometimes she’s a farmer, other times a teacher, track maintenance worker, or nurserywoman. Being a ranger at Ōmana Regional Park means having to be flexible.

“Every day is different,” she says. “You have to be reactive. You have to do what’s needed.”

Right now, Paterson’s days mostly revolve around helping people. Summer is drawing crowds to the park. She has to look out for both the visitors and the environment they’re there to enjoy. “Most of the time it’s just engaging with people. But some might have loud music. They might be letting off fireworks or having a campfire where they’re not supposed to, and you have to go deal with that.”

When she isn’t attending to those immediate issues, she’s often trying to make sure Ōmana stays beautiful. Of all her jobs, that’s her favourite. “Working with the volunteers is the best. It’s a beautiful space. We have people come in every week and do anything that needs to be done to maintain it.”

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Joe Rangihuna

Joe Rangihuna

Muriwai Regional Park

Last year, a new species of gecko was discovered on the dunes at Muriwai Regional Park. The reptiles are so new to science that they don’t yet have an official name. Joe Rangihuna isn’t a biologist, but few people in the world are more familiar with the species. He’s one of Muriwai Regional Park’s three rangers, and often spends hours of his working week tracking, monitoring and gathering data on the gecko. “It’s not something most people would expect us to be doing,” he says. “But it’s exciting.”

Rangihuna has been a ranger at Muriwai since 2009. When he’s not monitoring geckos, he might plant spinifex on the dunes to prevent erosion, patrol the beach, or maintain tracks through the coastal bush.

But he knows the most important part of the job is teaching the groups of schoolchildren who regularly make the trip out to Muriwai. He usually takes them tree planting, in the hope it will foster a sense of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship, of the land.

Without that, it’s hard to protect the reserve’s unique environment and animal populations long term, he says. “If you get the child at a good age, then when they become a teenager, they’re less likely to chop down the tree or drive over the sand dune. They’ve helped build this place. Now they won’t go out and trash it.”

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