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Meet Simon Collins


Sanctuary Manager - Rotokare Scenic Reserve Trust (Charitable trust)

Job description: 

How long have you got? - ha ha ... overall management of Sanctuary project. (Planning, policy, budgets, fundraising, staff, projects, public relations, partnerships, ... and occasionally getting outdoors - kiwi work, construction, wildlife monitoring etc.

Work background: 

Left high school early to become musician, didn't work out. Various hospitality jobs, labouring, painter ... then began working in private eco-tourism/conservation outfit with hoiho (yellow-eyed penguins) - initial tourism interest quickly morphed into passion for conservation. Became team leader, 2IC, and penguin hospital manager. began working at Rotokare in 2008 as Site manager (operational role) - led post-eradication mop-up and development of operational systems. This role included volunteer management/coordination, fence and biosecurity management, significant kiwi fieldwork, development projects, facilities maintenance etc etc. 5 years ago became Sanctuary manager for Rotokare - huge shift in role focus & expectations - outline above.

Favourite part of job: 

There are plenty - hard to pick a single favourite! Working with volunteers & passionate community in a collaborative and family environment is the key. Kiwi hunting is a significant personal highlight, as is leading bird translocations (the obvious highlight for me being translocating tieke & popokatea from hauturu o Toi to Rotokare). Seeing others excel, and seeing this community grow it's passion for conservation makes my work worthwhile.

Least favourite part of job: 

Admin routines - for example document filing, documenting correspondence, processing invoices & reimbursements...

What I am working on now: 

Funding applications, new office building project, visitor infrastructure project, kiwi project strategic & operational planning, preparation of 2 future bird reintroductions, ecological restoration plan for Rotokare, annual reporting, etc.

A quick story about a job well done: 

Upgrades of walkway around lake Rotokare - we took-on a team of four young lads through an employment scheme to help develop a 600m barrier-free track (with some contractor assistance) and 300m of timber boardwalks. Very challenging shifting timber lengths around walkway, and by boat across the lake, and at times keeping the lads on-task. The outcome was hugely satisfying for all with nearly a quarter of the walkway was upgraded, on time and on budget - receiving much positive feedback from recreational visitors.

A (humorous) story about a job that went badly and what you learned: 

Developing new walkway around the ridgeline at Rotokare. Once planning completed, timber was purchased & packaged-up for helicopter delivery to 21 drop-sites along the walkway. Once the timber work (steps & edging) had been completed, we then used helicopter & metal bucket (hopper) to deliver metal to complete steps and walking surface. We had several teams in different sections taking turns to receive the bucket and to pour the metal safely without hitting the pest-proof fence. As project manager I had spent much time expressing caution around fence damage & H&S. Myself and trust chairman working together took hold of the bucket as it arrived - firstly it pinned the chairman against the fence (as the helicopter swayed in the wind), then once he was clear but I held the bucket it touched and rested against the 'hot-wire' which gave me several electric shocks and knocked me over. As the bucket lifted away from the fence, firstly the Trust chairman fell-over laughing, and the helicopter pilot could be heard laughing (over the radio) all the way back to collect the next load.

Learning - turn electric fence off first, 3rd person in team 'just in case', prepare dump-sites further away from fence.


Diploma in Botanic garden management, hospitality certificates. I lack tertiary qualifications that one would traditionally associate with my line of work. What I have learned is that values (such as good work ethic and willingness to learn) and experience are critical - you could say I'm qualified by having had the experience and proving I can apply what I've learned. Certified kiwi handler and trainer.

Interests outside work: 

My family (wife & son), lifestyle property, mtn biking, walking, food, films, reading, art, Aotearoa.

Simon Collins. Image: LEARNZ.