When you hear the term “Park Ranger” you probably instantly think of someone resembling Steve Irwin in khaki shorts. However if you travel to the Waitawa Regional park, located in Kawakawa Bay, you will find the very vibrant Rebecca Smith who makes khaki shorts sexy. Known as Becks by those who know her she is the park ranger and farmer who keeps everything inline.
The park has only been open for 3 years so still very much in the development stages. With approximately 188ha containing recreation sites from mountain bike tracks, horse riding trails, tramping tracks, disc golf, fishing, kayaking and camping. Incorporated with the park is a fully functioning sheep and beef farm.
Becks says farming in the park has its challenges like people standing in the gate way when she is trying to move sheep or cattle which can become quite frustrating. Lucky she is a patient person and has good dogs. With mountain bike tracks running through the farm, gates are constantly left open . “You need good yard dogs here … a lot of drafting happens!!! “
She says it’s about educating the public on what you are doing and why, which is something she does enjoy.
One benefit of the position is the variety of work that she can be doing. One day she can be crutching lambs then find herself in a meeting with the conservation team discussing the next 10 years of wetland planting. Or she could found on the wharf as an in-house fisheries officer. Good thing this Agwoman is a woman of many talents and a jack of all trades, it’s not everyday you will hear a farmer is taking the digger up the paddock to develop a new mountain bike track and call it work, but for Becks this is normality.
Prior to her current position Becks grew up on a large sheep and beef property in North Waikato before she ventured to Lincoln University to study a Diploma of Agriculture and a Diploma of Horticulture.
Following uni she spent 2 years working in the Agriculture industry – shepherding and then As an AI (artificial inseminator)for LIC. Then with a passion and before urge to understand and bridge the gap between Agriculture and Conservation she enrolled into NMIT trainee ranger programme.
She completed the 8 months of theory and 4 months of paid summer placement and was lucky enough to be placed on Stewart Island over this time. This is where she fell in love with not only the Island and also her newfound job. Conservation then became her main role for 5 years. Becks continued to work in Stewart island for 2.5 years possum monitoring and completing weed control before transferring to the Fiordland national park cutting and building tracks/huts and pumping ablutions for 2 years.
Becks Smith is one strong woman and while in the bush one day she seriously injured her shoulder and popped it back in herself to ensure she could finish the job and get home. Unfortunately this meant she had to make a call to finish life full time in the bush having trapped one of her nerves which stopped her from having any strength in her hand for a few years.
Not one to be slowed down she headed home and managed her parent’s sheep and beef property which is primarily a Hereford Stud – Puketui Hereford. A place she describes as heaven.
However when a position as a ranger in the Hunua Regional Park cane up she just couldn’t help herself. “I needed to get back into the bush!” However once back in the bush all she would think about was farming. When a friend mentioned about her current position which was Conservation and Farming, she said it was almost too good to be true. And to today she is running it solo!! Awesome work Becks, what an awesome achievement.
As well as her farm dogs Becks also runs Kiwi Aversion training for dogs. Kiwis for kiwi is working hard to raise awareness that dogs are having a critical and devastating impact on our kiwi populations. As part of the training, dogs are walked, usually not on a lead, past a few different props – things such as a stuffed kiwi or kiwi nesting material. If the dog shows an interest in these objects, it gets a short sharp shock from either the trainer, via a special collar or the new e-kiwi which the dogs earths itself, delivering its own shock. The dog quickly learns that these objects are something to stay away from. The dog is then walked past similar props and, if it avoids them, is certified as having shown consistent avoidance behaviour. Refreshers are held, usually after 12 months or less, to make sure the dog remembers what it has learnt. Go to the kiwis for kiwis website to find a trainer in your area she says. What a unique side to the business and a great programme to be part of Becks!.
You truely are a passionate agwoman who is doing her bit to keep our clean green image intact and educate those less familiar with our farming practices. Keep up the great work!