Marine Rangers Expect Busy Summer On Western Water
A surge in boat sales has the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) Taranaki Marine Rangers gearing up for a busy summer on and off the coastlines.
Marine Rangers Wayne Beggs and Cameron Hunt do a range of work including compliance at the Tapuae Marine Reserve, research support, assisting with marine mammal strandings – and even rescuing the odd wayward human.
The New Zealand Marine Association says boat sales from June 2020 to January 2021 have doubled compared to the same period for 2019-2020. The upsurge in boat use is already reflected in the parking lots at Taranaki’s boat ramps and wharves, which are increasingly busy as summer heats up.
Wayne Beggs says the key for boaties is to be properly prepared, have well-maintained boats, a skipper with a good understanding of conditions, and a reliable communication method to stay in touch with people on shore and relevant agencies.
“Make sure your boat is fit to go out on the sea, and you’ve got lifejackets. People also need to check the signage and the marine reserve boundaries before they put a hook in the water,” he says.
People should respect the rules about harvesting shellfish, and if they encounter marine mammals, keep their distance. DOC’s goal with compliance work is to have fewer people breaking the rules, and part of that is education and getting people to care about the places they're visiting.
Wayne Beggs joined DOC in 1995, taking on the Marine Ranger role in 2015. He maintains DOC’s three Taranaki boats to Maritime New Zealand standards, and leads both diving operations and marine mammal monitoring – including work determining the distribution of Māui dolphins.
“I’ve always had a keen interest in boating and the sea, and this role builds on that.”
In his time as a Marine Ranger, he’s been involved a sperm whale stranding working alongside local iwi to secure and pay tribute to the magnificent animals, dealt with people suspected of poaching, and has been involved in several rescues – including a kayaker who fell out of his kayak and couldn’t get back into it.
“I enjoy being out on the water, and the nature of the work,” he says.
Their roles are varied and there are no typical days. During winter, there is a period with very little sea-going work due to conditions, and the focus is on planning and preparation, and also whitebait compliance.
Ranger Cameron Hunt ran a diving business in Tonga and previously spent nearly 14 years in the New Zealand Police, so has experience in dealing with challenging situations. He has a lifelong passion for sea-based activities and his induction included gaining a Skipper’s Certificate and the recent DOC Warranted Officers’ training.
His role is a split between compliance tasks, and wider marine-based research and monitoring work.
“The research work might be with PHD students, Taranaki Regional Council and our own people. The enforcement work is really about talking to people and making sure they understand the rules.”
DOC has employed seven new marine rangers around New Zealand, with a focus on compliance and monitoring at marine reserves. Boaties can also download the Marine Mate app, which has information on local area boating rules (including marine reserves), plus details on VHF channels, boat ramp locations and tide times.