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Life on an island: Genevieve Spargo – Kapiti Ranger


Want to know what life is like as an island ranger?

This is a great blog post published by New Zealand’s Department of Conservation from our very own passionate hihi recovery group member Genevieve Spargo. The original can be found at – check out other similar blogs there to learn more about the people working with DOC.

DOCs blog series offers you to “Come behind the scenes and into the jobs, the challenges, the highlights, and the personalities of the people who work at the Department of Conservation (DOC).”

At work

Name: Genevieve Spargo.

Position: Island Ranger – Kapiti Island.

Gen Spargo kayaking in Vietnam.

What kind of things do you do in your role?

The Island Ranger role on Kapiti is varied. Some days I pretend to be a visitor assets ranger, other days I pretend to be a biodiversity ranger, and there’s also a great deal of effort that goes into the interpretation and relations aspect too. Not to mention the logistics/coordination, biosecurity and surveillance, building infrastructure and fire equipment maintenance of course!

What is the best part about your job?

I pretty much pinch myself everyday, it’s a great privilege to live and work on a nature reserve. I think the best part of my job is bumping into regular Kiwis (the human variety) along the tracks and watching their expressions as they see and hear hihikōkakotīeke, korimakotoutouwai or have a flock of kererū fly past, or even meet face to face with a cheeky weka or takahē. Magic.

What is the hardest part about your job?

Realising that I’m not a superhero and that there are only 24 hours in a day. It is a huge responsibility helping to take care of Kapiti Island.

Whenua Hou domestic terminal

What led you to your role in DOC?

Extremely encouraging fellow DOC workers and friends. You all know who you are, so a big cheery thanks! The natural world has been an obsession for a while. I was lovingly told off as a child for chasing wildlife and lifting rocks to see what was under them—this is ok if it’s not outback Australia!

I had my eye on DOC while I was at uni in the UK and, after I moved out here, I took a job on the front desk in National Office, answering phones and delivering mail. It was a cool way to get to know the Department and the people that worked there.

I got involved with island field trips as soon as I could via volunteering and work development opportunities. I also started bird banding with the Ornothological Society New Zealand and doing some work for the Department’s vet which was great fun! So, after a stint with the Standard Operating Procedures System team I got an exciting chance to go weeding for a while on Hauturu/Little Barrier(thanks heaps Ross and the Walles), the rest is history….

What was your highlight from the month just gone?

Converting a bunch of gecko fearing school kids into mini gecko ambassadors.

Gen Spargo building stuff on the farm with her Dad.

The rule of three…

3 loves

  1. Butter (urrm… I mean my other half)
  2. My crazy awesome nephew
  3. A hot cup of tea and chocolate with pals after tramping to an epic New Zealand hut

3 pet peeves

  1. Tailgaters
  2. People who won’t try to listen
  3. Having no butter in the house or forgetting butter when tramping. Devastating.

3 foods

  1. Butter…
  2. Butter and
  3. Butter

Favourite place in New Zealand

This changes all the time as I explore new parts of the country. At the moment it’s Taepiro Stream on Kapiti Island. It blew me away and I can’t help but imagine ancient wildlife stomping through the undergrowth. Its goosebump type of stuff.

Favourite movie, album, book

  • Movie: Stand by me (1986)
  • Album: It’s a tie. Santigold – Santigold, and Tango in the night – Fleetwood Mac
  • Book: Rainforest (Thomas Marent, Ben Morgan)—more for the photography than the text

Gen Spargo working on the Rena Recovery.

Deep and meaningful…

What piece of advice would you tell your 18 year old self?

Time is ticking, so don’t be fearful and get on with it!

Who or what inspires you and why?

All the DOC staff who put in the invisible and unpaid hours to get the job done. People who have busy lives, jobs, families etc. and still find the time to be passionate and involved through volunteering in conservation – got to respect that!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A police dog handler or an RSPCA Officer.

And now, if you weren’t working at DOC, what would you want to be?

Running some sort of restoration trust getting kiwi kids off their couches and into the outside – preferably on an island.

What sustainability tip would you like to pass on?

If you can, leave the car at home sometimes and go for a walk.

Which green behaviour would you like to adopt this year-at home? At work?

Perhaps introduce a ‘swimming to work’ programme for Kapiti Island DOC staff.

If you could be any New Zealand native species for a day, what would you be and why?
Probably a gannet, as I reckon it would be a pretty exhilarating life, and the views would be spectacular!

What piece of advice or message would you want to give to New Zealanders when it comes to conservation?
Enthusiasm is usually infectious. You have the ability to influence everyone around you in a positive way by encouraging the respect of our natural resources. No really, you do.

Gen Spargo Penguin monitoring.

Written by Genevieve Spargo

I began working for the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 2007 and my first brush with hihi was when I became the Kapiti Island ranger in 2012. My primary focus for hihi is to help keep the island predator free and to generally oversee the hihi programme. This includes managing the Hihi Hero volunteer team, island logistics and taking every available opportunity for hihi advocacy.

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