11.08.10 22:18 Age: 8 yrs

Rangers Need Support In NZ

By: Kit Howden

35 rangers gathered in Auckland NZ largest City, to celebrate World Ranger Day.

They listened to Ian Maxwell the new manager of parks speak about the  structure of the "super city" that is being planned for Auckland. This  positive change brings together many park and conservation staff and creates one of Australasia's largest cities of 1,2 million people. Within the new City there are conservation and parkland of world class standard facing many challenges to care for unique natural and cultural heritage. However, the emphasis in forming the new City appears to be on hierarchical management,  remote policies  resulting in short term contracting services. More focus need to go on frontline services working closely with volunteers and community  caring for the conservation park land.
As rangers were celebrating the day  NGOs and Iwi [Maori - the indigenous people] were trying to get more attention on the natural and cultural heritage sites within the new City. .  The inefficiency of the present structure, which has few rangers and remote contract systems,   was  illustrated by the recent bulldozing of archaeological sites through potential world heritage sites on the volcanic cones. Two months later there is still no meaningful reply to our questions on action and restoration although the media  as reported in the NZ Herald on 6 August by Brian Rudman.
"Friends of Maungawhau chairman Kit Howden highlights the benefits of the professional ranger service, used by the ARC and Manukau City, and wants it adopted by the new council to babysit the protected cones as well. He says a ranger would have stopped the recent trail of destruction across Mt Roskill, Mt Albert, Mt Hobson, Mt Taylor and Mt Wellington in its tracks. In such a situation, an on-site ranger would have been instantly aware of something untoward, or be quickly alerted by his network of volunteers and neighbours. The ranger would be like the custodian/security chief at a commercial building - the eyes, ears and guardian of the place."
Over the years front line conservation staff and rangers have been marginalized within the  "managerial asset based - contract out everything system". Hierarchical management based on remote planners and policy advisers with rules and processes  can increase costs and  prevent conservation work happening.
There is a sad joke in our NGO on how bad it is getting  - How to cut a 20mm root of a dying shrub  blocking the repair of a  track  ?  - 1 policy adviser, 2 consultants and 1 contractor can not make the decision but they are happy to leave it to a volunteer  so that the work can continue.
The volunteer could do it because there was no disciplinary come back. On the other hand, paid staff trying to follow the multitude of   rules and regulations have their jobs under threat.  The reality of the frontline is being lost and there is a need to bring back more  authority and responsibility to those working at the front line.
At a national level the Departmental of Conservation [DoC], NZ Recreation Association and Skills NZ have a working party that have developed a ranger training profile to recognize the role of rangers however it is delayed  through lack of funding. It also does not recognize the increasing importance of Iwi in management and ranger services.
NZ does not have a Ranger Association however a few rangers are becoming interested and it is hoped such a professional group can be developed in association with others to represent frontline conservation staff not only here in NZ but internationally.
Kit Howden

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