News | 14 January 2022

Welly Walks: A diverse day in the life of Ranger Denise

From dealing with washed up boats and dead goats to passionate community volunteers and native plants – work for Wellington ranger Denise Clements sure is a mixed bag.

A woman with long curly light brown hair holding a large plastic container under a punga tree on a dusty dirt track in amongst tall native forest.

“I always struggle to sum up what the Park Ranger role entails as it is incredibly diverse – you never know what your day is going to bring.

“Essentially our team monitors and manages the use of Wellingtons parks and open spaces. To help us make decisions we are guided by area specific Management Plans, Council Bylaws and the Reserve Management Act.”

Denise, who started working for Wellington City Council as the Northern Area Park Ranger in January 2019, says you must be ready for anything.

“There is so much happening out there, you need to juggle a lot of activities across the area you manage.”

In Pōneke’s Northern Area, BAU for Denise includes:

  • Supporting a variety of community volunteer groups undertaking restoration, pest plant management, trapping, trail building and maintenance, gardening groups, community food gardens and native plant nurseries.
  • Providing landowner approval to contractors and utility companies to undertake work and set conditions for re-instatement and undertaking regular site visits and inspections.
  • Issuing event permits and working with event organisers to ensure they have controls and systems in place to manage event staff, as well as participant and public safety.
  • Working with residents regarding encroachments.
  • Having a regular presence in the community – engaging and educating the public, locating owners of roaming stock and checking park assets.
  • Working with other Council teams where there are overlapping responsibilities.

Outside of BAU, the Park Ranger team provides a 24/7 service with an on-call roster. Being on-call is when things get interesting, Denise says.

“My very first on-call weekend there was a fire on Te Ahumairangi Hill. I’ve been out until 1am helping deal with a boat that washed up on the south coast after hitting a submerged rock.

“After one of the significant rain events this year I was called out to collect a number of dead goats that were washing up around the coast.”

Denise says the job’s highlights include working in a great team and making some lovely friendships, having her dog at work some days, and working with volunteer groups.

“It’s amazing following and supporting their journey and seeing how much is being achieved collectively across the city, environmentally and recreationally. The groups make a huge contribution towards ensuring Wellington city is a great place to live, work and play.”

Denise previously studied outdoor education, leadership and management in the South Island, specialising in white water kayaking, rock climbing and bush. She also worked in the tertiary sector managing the Outdoor Adventure Department at Whitireia Polytech.

A well as having an adventurous career, Denise has an adventurous family. Along with her husband and their two daughters they enjoy mountain biking and horse riding.

Denise has selected the fifth walk in our #WellyWalk series.

Head to Kiwi Crescent to find the entrance of Te Ngahere-o-Tawa, and start heading up the newly built shared track. The box will be hidden around the halfway mark of the walk, where you will come to a long and straight part of the track lined with trees. There, you’ll find yourself a delicious range of cookies from Streetwise Coffee in Tawa.

Denise says aside from the lovely bush, the beauty of the uphill track is that it’s great for both walkers and bikers.

“It’s well graded with some nice viewing points. Once at the top there are many other track connections that you can explore which take you up to Colonial Knob, down into Spicer Botanical Park or into Ohariu Valley. The top of Spicer Forest is also open for horse riders so recreationally it’s just a fantastic area for a number of user groups.”