The opportunity to visit places most people will never go, and the variety of people at DOC make working here really special for Laree.


Hi, my name is Laree Furniss. I am the Senior Ranger, Recreation/Historic based in the wonderful winterless north of Kaitaia.

I have worked for the Department of Conservation for approximately 12 years mainly in Northland and Auckland and mainly in recreation. I have also done work in Biodiversity, Community Relations and Administration during this time.

Why did you join DOC?

At age three I clearly remember my dad putting a worm in my hand and saying "It won't hurt you". I grew up a bit of a tom-boy, always outside climbing trees and playing in the sandpit, but my love of nature and conservation was inspired my dad.

He was no Sir David Attenborough, he was more about the little things like teaching me not to be scared of worms, but he also opened my eyes to the majesty in our native trees (he planted Kauri trees everywhere he went), our unique bird life and learning about other animals and places by watching Our World every Monday night together.

I didn't leave school with the idea that working in conservation was going to be my thing. But, finally one day in my mid twenties at a time when I was contemplating heading overseas I read an advert in a newspaper for the Trainee Ranger Programme in Nelson. Something clicked and the rest is history.

I loved this programme. I got to do lots of practical learning - chainsaws, boat driving, bush and snow survival (and playing lunchtime soccer) and got to hang out with a great bunch of students and trainers.

What does your typical work day involve?

Saying good morning to all the staff when we walk in the door, that's about the only consistent thing that occurs every day!

The rest of the day could involve anything from talking to people about our work, discussing projects with our Works Officer, troubleshooting issues as they arise, managing budgets, checking out our visitor sites or writing proposals for future work. I am also a fire-fighter so respond to fires and other emergency situations like whale strandings.

The other thing I really like to do is find any opportunity to give the DOC Partnerships staff a hard time!

What do you like most about your job?

Giving the Partnerships staff a hard time! Just kidding! The people I get to meet and work with makes this job. Also the places I get to go.

I have had the opportunity to go to places most people will never get to go to. I've been to the Three Kings, Poor Knights, Hen and Chicks, Little and Great Barrier Islands, where you get to see nature as it should be.

I will never forget getting off the helicopter at Manawatawhi (Three Kings) and as the helicopter departed having the noise of the rotors replaced by the incredible chorus of hundreds of bellbirds – they really do sound like an orchestra of bells. I don't think I have ever heard anything more divine!

But it's the people with their variety of backgrounds, interests and passions that make working here really special *lump in throat, sniffle sniffle*.

I think DOC staff are like a box of chocolates you never know what you're going to get when it comes to where they have come from. Some are builders, butchers, court registrars, adventure guilds, nurses, engineers in their past lives, but they are all sweet!

This variety is what makes DOC rangers good at their jobs and so interesting to be around.

What is the best story you've been able to tell after a day at work?

There are so many.

I jumped out of a helicopter to fight a fire today...I watched a skink eat a mintie today...I caught a massive snapper when we got stuck on Lady Alice Island and we had run out of food...I spent New Year's eve in a DOC campground!

But I think my favourite is where I got to put some of my surf lifesaving skills into action alongside my DOC skills.

One afternoon I and two other rangers responded to three pilot whales stranded on 90 mile beach.

On arriving we found only one calf still alive, and none of the deceased whales were lactating females so there was a chance its mum was still out there looking for it.

Unfortunately due to the swell height it was going to be impossible to release the little one straight back into the water at that location. So I suggested we could head to the south end of the beach where it would be more sheltered, to get the local surf club (which I am a member of) to bring down their IRB (inflatable rescue boat) and we'll see if we could take him out past the breakers with that and release him. And so we did!

While I and another lifeguard held onto the mat supporting the whale alongside the boat our very experienced driver slowly headed out through the surf.

Once we were out about a kilometre we released the calf, it did a couple of circuits of the boat then headed off into the sunset.

What is your advice to people wanting to work for DOC?

Give it a go!

To get an understanding of the work we do and the variety that is out there, try volunteering or taking on a temporary contract to see if it's what you want.

There are so many choices of work and places to go!

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