Each week Chad Cottle gets transported by helicopter and dropped into native forest in the Southern Alps. The terrain is rough and unchartered so bush skills are essential for survival.
It might sound like he’s taking part in the latest Survivor reality TV show, but Chad’s actually a field ranger on the West Coast of the South Island.
He’s working for Zero Invasive Predators Limited on an exciting and innovative new project where they remove pests from a 12,000-hectare native forest block in the Southern Alps and protect the area from reinvasion using rivers as barriers.
Chad and his colleagues spend a few days at a time immersed in the bush, staying in tents or huts while they carry out ‘track flagging’ and cutting in untamed forest.
This front-line, hands-on work involves preparing tracks and monitoring lines for the installation of trapping and monitoring devices. Once the tracks are established, Chad and his colleagues will install and look after the trapping and monitoring devices.
It’s a job that Chad loves.
“I really enjoy exploring new areas of forest and seeing things you wouldn't normally see. As a keen photographer I get to see some pretty awesome places, landscapes, flora and fauna too. We have a really good team so it’s great working with them and seeing a plan come together – all while trying to work around the wild west coast weather,” says Chad.
“Working in challenging terrain really makes you appreciate the simple things in life, like a hot drink after a long day,” he adds.
Originally from Gisborne, Chad grew up in a family that encouraged possum trapping, hunting, fishing and growing your own vegetables. He says he has always been fascinated with plants, botany and photography so conservation and environmental study was a natural fit.
Chad studied horticulture in Kaitaia for two years before moving to Tauranga to study a Diploma in Environmental Management at Toi Ohomai.
“Studying at Toi Ohomai taught me a lot of valuable skills like report writing, the importance of statistical data and introduced me to New Zealand's vast conservation background,” says Chad.
“I enjoyed the numerous field trips the most (even though our year seemed to be cursed with rain!) and the fact we were able to see many parts of the country while applying what we had learned in the classroom. I really liked the tutors at Toi Ohomai as they seemed to connect with the students really well and were very knowledgeable in their respective fields,” he concludes.