Nearly two years ago the Council of Oceania Ranger Association had a vision to bring Rangers from across the Oceania Region together for a forum. The location Rotorua in Aotearoa - New Zealand. With a few hiccups along the way, October 2022 saw 180 delegates travelling to Rotorua for the Inaugural Oceania Ranger Forum with the theme Inclusive Conservation.
SARA members, Tim Howard & Courtney Heinjus, sponsored by NPWS, Rachel Godoy sponsored by Forestry SA and Tammy Leggett President of SARA attended this amazing event, returning with some great stories, new friends and new opportunities to enhance the ranger profession and strengthen our wider ranger family.
The event commenced with a Powhiri a traditional Maori welcome. The first day speakers included a great range of local presenters, including Lou Sanson the IUCN Oceania Representative, who spoke about 'My life in nature', A career in conservation and why the world needs more rangers, which we all agreed with. Other speakers spoke about cultural safety in the work place, forming partnerships and building relationships, remembering people and place. We were entertained by Gavin, who spoke about Growing and innovating conservation awareness amongst our rangatahi (young) and were inspired by Jim and Jean Thomas, who are working in Papua New Guinea (remotely since Covid) on the Tenkile Conservation Alliance which is an critically endangered tree kangaroo, which has seen numbers in the wild rise to 300, but also build awareness and relationships with villages.
The evening saw the group head to the Mitai Maori village, where we were in need of a Chief, so Chief Tim was named and looked after us, we discovered and were in awe of the culture and traditions of the Maori People. We shared a feast cooked in a hangi, where rocks are heated and fall to the bottom of a pit, where the food is then placed and covered, cooking until tender and delicious.
Day two saw not a dry eye in the house as we listen to the amazing stories of adversity and triumph, which certainly reminded us that rangers across the globe are passionate about the environment, work hard to make a difference and are part of one big family. Through donations, fund raising and a little competition, we are making a difference and there is always more to do.
Rachel showcased our amazing State with her presentation of Forestry conservation and sustainable use, which is challenging when New Zealand has a significant forestry industry, Rachel wrapped the presentation for day 2, where we had fish and chips with the seagulls and the calming aroma of the geothermal activity near-by. Our final day was field trips, where we were able to experience different aspects of culture, community and conservation, which ended the forum.
We have now welcomed the Rangers of Aotearoa NZ and the Samoa Rangers Association who have joined the Council of Oceania Ranger Association which is fantastic news. We hope that the forum showed that their hard work in conservation works is vital and there is a larger family of rangers out there.
It was an amazing opportunity and I was lucky to explore a tiny little part of New Zealand before the forum. It was also evident the impact of covid in these tourism destinations and it was great that we were able to support local business and tourism in Aotearoa - New Zealand.
Finally in the words of Gavin to get your morning started by (there are hand actions and you need to be standing, see link below) 'So wave goodbye to the departing moon, wave hello to the arriving sun, we're going to push away the clouds of the morning and were going to MOVE the immovable objects'