Being a ranger means being prepared for anything – fires, injured wildlife, and even facing up to a wild bear – on the other side of the world.
Sunday is World Ranger Day and Rodney Chambers is one of 27 park rangers working for the Christchurch City Council. He has been with Council for 20 years and has been Head Ranger Coastal and Plains for the past decade. With his team, he is responsible for Bottle Lake Forest, the beaches between Sumner and Spencer Park, Travis Wetland, the Styx River Reserves and the Groynes Parkland.
Along with routine tasks, such as maintaining mountain bike tracks and picnic areas, trapping pests and picking up rubbish from the beaches, there are also more dramatic events, such as being involved in fire-fighting, rescuing injured wildlife, helping riders who have fallen off horses or mountainbikes and sometimes responding to car accidents.
In May this year, Mr Chambers represented New Zealand at the World Ranger Congress in Colorado, the United States. It was attended by 350 rangers from around the globe. He visited San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park and the Rockies on the memorable trip which he had been planning for six years. While he was there he came face to face (almost) with a brown bear while in Grant Teton National Park.
At the congress he gave a presentation about the impact of the earthquakes on Christchurch’s parks and environment – including liquefaction, sea bed level changes in the estuary and rock fall issues - and the role of park rangers in emergency response.
Mr Chambers manages 11 staff who work on a rotation system so the service is maintained seven days a week. “There’s a sense of ownership of our parks and I enjoy presenting a good quality experience for visitors and seeing them enjoying themselves. We’re keeping facilities and parks to the standard they deserve,” he says.
His favourite place to spend time is the beach, and he is a trustee of the Dunes Restoration Trust. He feels strongly about making sure the sand dunes are protected from invasive weeds and maintained with native planting to prevent erosion. “Our biggest insurance policy as a city is to have our dunes planted and stable. You can’t turn your back, because the negative impacts are huge and they need our protection.”