Devon McLean – Project Director
Over the years as he kayaked and sailed past the beautiful bush-lined beaches of the Abel Tasman National Park, Devon McLean used to tell his wife Anne that one day he wanted to make a difference to the park.
Turns out his retirement to Nelson is a little busier than he anticipated, as that dream has seen him head an ambitious 30-year project to transform the ecological heart of the Abel Tasman.
Devon’s love of trees and plants began as a child growing up in Nelson and became his career. He joined New Zealand Forest Products (later Carter Holt Harvey) in 1974 as a graduate forester and held a number of management positions including Chief Operating Officer. He was also the Chairman of the NZ Forest Industries Council and a Director of the Forest Research Institute (Scion).
In 1990 Devon was involved in setting up Project Crimson—a trust devoted to the protection of New Zealand’s pōhutukawa and rātā trees. His involvement in this and many other biodiversity projects saw him awarded a Queen's Service Medal in the 2015 New Year's Honours.
Devon is currently the Chairman of Zero Invasive Predators (ZIP), Environmental Advisor to the NEXT Foundation, a Member of the NZ Conservation Authority, Governance board member of the Biological Heritage National Science Challenge, Director of the Taranaki Mounga Project and a Trustee with Predator Free New Zealand.
He looks forward to the day when the Abel Tasman National Park’s whole coastline is lit up over summer by the vivid red flowers of the rātā, robin’s flit on the beach at Anchorage and mohua can be heard in the upland areas of the park.
Along the way he wants to make sure Project Janszoon inspires the next generation to be passionate about our parks and the environment.
Pete Gaze – Bird Expert
Pete is Project Janszoon’s resident bird expert and our go-to guy when it comes to planning the re-introduction of native birds back into the park. He is pretty knowledgeable about lizards, tuatara, frogs and forest habitats as well.
His love of all things avian began when he started working with the Ecology Division of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research back in the 70s. His first job was managing the development of an atlas of bird distribution in New Zealand and he spent a lot of time liaising with bird watchers and ecologists who imparted much of their knowledge.
Research into birds living in stands of radiata pine forests brought him to Nelson in 1980. In the late 80s he was involved in campaigning for the formation of the Department of Conservation and he jumped ship to work for DOC in 1988. It was around that time that new predator eradication techniques were being developed for islands and he spent a lot of time in the Marlborough Sounds.
Pete says while eradicating rats and translocating species back onto islands was rewarding it was somewhat guaranteed and his work with Project Janszoon on the mainland will be a lot more challenging. He is up for the challenge though and loves the fact the project is breaking new ground in terms of scale.
As well as working with Project Janszoon Pete also works in the Sounds assisting with the ecological restoration of privately owned Puangiangi Island. He is also the secretary of the Ornitholigical Society of New Zealand.
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Andrew Macalister - Operations Manager
Andrew Macalister is Project Janszoon’s Operations Manager. He is responsible for the “secure” aspects of the project like getting rid of introduced pests and weeds.
Ecological nasties have been in Andrew’s sights for a while now. During his nearly 20 years working in conservation he has managed New Zealand’s largest pest control programme for the Animal Health Board on the West Coast. He also ran multi million dollar wilding pine control programmes in the Marlborough Sounds and the Abel Tasman National Park.
Andrew has been involved in Project Janszoon since its inception as part of the external advisory group. His work in the Abel Tasman is a continuation of a lifelong involvement with the Park as his family visited by yacht every summer.
He says he has wonderful childhood memories of the Park and relishes the opportunity to be able to ensure his kids will experience the area in an even better condition than he did.
Andrew is also a director of ecological consultancy R&D Environmental.
It is Robyn’s job to get the news out about what Project Janszoon is trying to achieve and how we plan to go about it. She also produces and directs our videos.
Robyn has had a long involvement in the media working in print, radio, television and communications for nearly 20 years. During her 12 years with TVNZ she did stories for One News, Close Up and the Sunday programme and she has also appeared on CNN, the BBC, Al Jazeera and the ABC.
Robyn says she has always been interested in conservation and over the years has interviewed conservation gurus like Sir David Bellamy and Sir Peter Blake. She actually spent a night on Sir Peter’s boat, Seamaster, on the Amazon just a couple of weeks before he was killed.
Her love of the Abel Tasman National Park began about 25 years ago when she first kayaked around the park – back then there were less visitors but the beaches were just as stunning. Since then she has visited and tramped the Abel Tasman regularly.
Robyn joined the team at Project Janszoon in 2013, and also runs Media Fix, a television production and communications company. Now she has moved to the Nelson region she is relishing the prospect of spreading the word about Project Janszoon’s plans to restore the Abel Tasman back to its former glory.
Marika Kingan – Executive Assistant
Marika came to New Zealand back in 2002 for what she thought would be 24 months. Eleven years later she has a Kiwi husband, two children and couldn’t ever imagine living back in South Africa.
It’s the people, freedom, relaxed atmosphere and lifestyle that she loves. Of course beautiful surroundings and easy access to the Abel Tasman National Park is an added bonus.
When she lived in hometown Cape Town she used to enjoy camping and tramping but says you always had to drive five or six hours to enjoy nature. Now it is at her doorstep and she loves it.
Marika studied at Cape Technikon and worked as an executive assistant in town planning and for a textile company in South Africa. In New Zealand she initially managed the Victoria University Foundation, the funding arm of the university.
She is now Project Janszoon’s executive assistant and says she feels privileged to be involved in such a positive project. Marika regularly enjoys visits to the park with work and her family and says she is learning so much about New Zealand’s native plants and animals as part of the job.
Wendy Reeve – Education Advisor
If you’re looking for ways to connect young people with Project Janszoon’s work in the Abel Tasman, Wendy is the person to talk to.
She has a broad background teaching in primary, intermediate and secondary schools. Her passion is bringing learning to life through cross-curricular integration and student inquiry using authentic, hands-on experiences. This focus eventually took her out of the classroom and into curriculum and programme design, and education publishing where she has worked on projects for Learning Media, as well as other global publishing houses. Wendy never forgets what her work is really about: inspiring and engaging kids. So it’s no surprise that getting out with students and teachers still makes her heart sing.
One of Wendy’s most memorable travel experiences was driving across North America in a caravan with her husband and daughter. The highlight of the trip was visiting more than 30 national parks and monuments along the way. This allowed her to experience not only the grandeur of these vastly different environments, but also dozens of conservation education programmes first-hand.
Helping to instill a passion for the Abel Tasman National Park and the natural world in our young people is work that Wendy feels incredibly honoured to be part of. She hopes that getting involved with Project Janszoon education programmes will help them find their “path to purpose”, an enduring satisfaction and focus that will guide and sustain them well into adulthood.
Ruth Bollongino – Scientific Consultant
Ruth is our data cruncher. It is her job to document, archive and publish the scientific outcomes for the project.
A native of Germany, she has a PhD in biology, specialising in palaeogenetics, physical anthropology and archaeology. While working at the Johannes–Gutenberg–University in Mainz her main research focused on the development, origin and adaptation of prehistoric human populations, using DNA from archaeological bones and teeth. A second topic was the domestication of animals and their subsequent spread during the Neolithic era.
On the side, she worked as a scientific expert for the human evolution programme of UNESCO and wrote popular scientific articles on New Zealand's ecology for a German travel magazine.
Ruth met her Kiwi partner on the Heaphy Track in 2010 and decided to swap laboratory work for the fresh air of Tasman Bay, moving here in 2015. Her partner works in the Abel Tasman so she spends lots of time in the Park, nurturing her other great loves—the outdoors and photography.
Helen Lindsay – Restoration Supervisor
Helen is responsible for Project Janszoon’s plantings in the Abel Tasman – she makes sure we’re planting the right natives, in the right places, and then keeps an eye on how they are doing.
A native of Dublin, Helen has spent nearly 30 years working in the non profit conservation sector. She began her career in administration and started her first job in New Zealand working for Greenpeace, the year after the Rainbow Warrior was bombed.
Deciding she was better at practical work than lobbying she re-trained in sustainable land management, specialising in ecological restoration.
Helen has worked on all the DOC administered islands in the Hauraki Gulf and also spent time working on Lord Howe Island in Australia. She has been in charge of restoration planting and weed control on Motuora Island in the Hauraki Gulf since 1998 with the Motuora Restoration Society.
Wanting to get out of the city she moved to Motueka in 2009 and has since been involved in restoration work for DOC and Project Janszoon. Helen is also a trustee of the Native Forest Restoration Trust, a national organisation which purchases and manages land for conservation purposes, and the Otuwhero Trust, a community group carrying out restoration work in the Otuwhero wetland near Marahau.
Helen says she loves working in the outdoors and thinks she is privileged to be working in the Abel Tasman National Park and contributing to conservation.