Home' Waitomo News : 2 February 2016 Contents Waitomo NeWs tuesday, February 2, 2016 5
By ROBBIE KAY
RAY Scrimgeour is instantly recognisable when
glimpsed about town, even from a distance.
A fit, bearded character, for many years he could
be seen striding to and from the office summer and
winter wearing his trademark tramping shorts and
Always humble, he’s clearly a bloke much at ease
in the great outdoors.
Mr Scrimgeour joined the Forest Service in 1975,
moved from the McKenzie Country to Pureora in 1981
and became Te Kuiti-based three years later.
As conservation services manager in Te Kuiti for
the Department of Conservation for the last two years
and area manager for some 20 years before that, he’s
played a key role in introducing practical policies
that reduced pest predator numbers and saw the
rare kokako – and other endangered species – thrive.
But we’re losing him this week.
There’s been yet another reshuffle/restructure at
DOC. The last one two years ago didn’t go so well
so many of the changes are being revoked and Mr
Scrimgeour will start a new job in Hamilton as DOC’s
Waikato district operations manager.
He reckons he may have to dig out some business-
wear from time to time in his new role, but he doesn’t
plan on hanging up his outdoor gear for long.
Looking at the restructure, he says the changes
being made in Te Kuiti and Hamilton are positive
and being done for the best of reasons.
“We’re returning to a highly effective structure
DOC originally had in the 1990s,” he says.
“DOC was a fledgling organisation then and the
rural community was a bit nervous about how it
would impact on them.
“People worried DOC would be some sort of draco-
nian conservation police who would stop them doing
all sorts of land use activities.
“In reality, that came much later through regional
councils rather than DOC.
“These days farmers, limestone quarry operators
and other rural businesses have become strong allies
of DOC. We work together to achieve the best possible
Mr Scrimgeour says DOC’s early years in the North
King Country were challenging.
Staff were recruited from varied backgrounds, but
everyone had a common desire to work in conserva-
“My first DOC boss John Gaukrodger had been in
charge of Pureora Forest Park,” he says.
“Gauk’ was a practical, down-to-earth bloke who
was very good at bringing people together as a team
working towards a common conservation goal.
“I admired him and learned a lot about good people
management from him.”
Looking back on his many years in the North King
Country, Mr Scrimgeour says Te Kuiti has been a
great place to live and he can’t think of a better region
in which to work for DOC.
“Some of it’s about the good range of conservation
issues we get to deal with, but a lot of it’s about the
people,” he says.
Looking forward, he does hope more people will
come to experience the unique treasures the region
has to offer, though he’s seen that appreciation and
awareness grow enormously over the years.
“One of the first projects I worked on was the Ma-
hoenui giant weta,” says Mr Scrimgeour.
“No-one knew much about them – I certainly had no
experience in insect conservation – but we did some
research and found out where they were.
“Much to the consternation of some local people
who couldn’t work out why DOC was bothering with
a big ugly bug, we brought a block of gorse to create
a reserve for them.
“At the time our work was thought a waste of
money, but we took a lot of kids out there to study
the weta and they help spread the word.
“Now I look at the terrific sculpture in Rora
St, Te Kuiti and how proud Mahoenui is of their
protected weta reserve.”
He says the health of the Waitomo glowworm
cave system also resulted from local people and
DOC working together to protect a local treasure.
In the 1970s, the cave system went through a
“very bad patch” and the glowworms were starting
But after he Waikato Raupatu Claims Settle-
ment in May 1995, DOC began working with the
local hapu, farmers and the Waikato Regional
He says widespread agreement was achieved
among farmers in the cave catchment resulting
in fenced waterways, retired bush, the subsidised
planting of pine trees on erodible country and the
removal of goats.
It’s all made a huge difference to the caves.
He is probably most proud of the work DOC has
done at Mapara to save endangered North Island
kokako through innovative pest control – now
widely used throughout New Zealand to protect
The team started with 42 kokako at Mapara,
including only four females.
Today, there are 1350 breeding pairs and prob-
ably three times as many single birds.
Mr Scrimgeour says this early work by DOC in
the North King Country has led to New Zealanders
believing they can make a difference.
He cites the Timber Trail as being a more recent
successful DOC project that will have a major
impact on the region’s economy through increased
“DOC bankrolled the capital cost of the project
and the community will get a good return on that
investment. Progress on the eradication of TB in
the region is another success story.
“When I first got involved with possum control
here, Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries people
were saying there was no future for cattle or deer
farming in the King Country because TB was so out
of control. But good collaboration between farmers,
DOC and other organisations has almost won that
battle and beating the possums has also had huge
“Forests that were grey and dying are now green
and full of bird life.”
In his new role Mr Scrimgeour will have less
hands-on management of forests and reserves and
a lot more focus on wetlands biodiversity issues
from north of the King Country to the Bombay
“I’m looking forward to working in partnership
with Fonterra on the Living Waters Programme
to protect significant biodiversity sites on private
“Another key project for my team will be the
Waikato-Tainui River treaty settlement. And work-
ing with the Maungatautari Ecological Trust is also
an important relationship for DOC.”
“I’ve really enjoyed my time in the North King
Country, partly because of the teams I’ve worked
with, but also because of the people we’ve worked
with across the community,” he says.
“I’ve also really enjoyed the range of conserva-
tion issues DOC’s dealt with here over the past
“Now I’m looking forward to meeting some new
challenges . . . and hopefully plenty of opportuni-
ties to get outdoors.
“I’m not ready to burn my shorts and throw out
my tramping boots just yet.”
WHOPPER WETA: Ray Scrimgeour helped get many local kids interested in
the Mahoenui giant weta, then they spread the conservation word. PHOTO SUPPLIED
We’re losing Ray
MOVING ON: Ray Scrimgeour is now the Hamilton-based Waikato district opera-
tions manager and takes up the new role this week.
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