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Department of Conservation director-general steps down

3 min read

From left to right: Grant Dodson (GAC chair), Lou Sanson, Craig Benbow (NZDA president). Photo: Supplied

Department of Conservation’s director-general Lou Sanson stepped down from his role on 13 September after eight years.

Penny Nelson will take the reins on 1 November 2021. She has been appointed for five years.

Nelson is currently deputy director-general of Biosecurity New Zealand at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), a role she has held since 2019.

Deputy public service commissioner Helene Quilter announced the appointment on 31 August.

“Ms Nelson has broad experience in the environment, biodiversity and science sectors. She is a respected and proven leader in the Public Service with a track record of delivering against key government priorities. She has considerable experience spearheading partnerships between government, business, iwi, NGOs and communities of interest.” 

Nelson has previously held the positions of deputy director-general, policy and trade at MPI and deputy secretary, environmental performance, innovation and climate at the Ministry for the Environment. Prior to joining the Ministry for the Environment, she was executive director of the Sustainable Business Council.

The Game Animal Council (GAC) extended its thanks to the outgoing director-general of conservation for his dedication to conservation and recreation in New Zealand.

“As a lover of nature and keen outdoorsman, Lou has lived and breathed conservation his whole life,” said GAC chair Grant Dodson. “The success of his leadership, particularly in promoting community conservation and outdoor recreation, is best illustrated by the increased engagement of Kiwis with our conservation estate.

“Despite its detractors, Lou has supported the GAC to carry out its statutory mandate. Hunters and hunting are a big part of the fabric of New Zealand and have a key role in not only protecting but facilitating people’s enjoyment of our magnificent backcountry. As a keen deerstalker himself, Lou always understood that, and I hope he now gets more time to get out there and enjoy his hunting.”

Dodson added that the council looks forward to working with the incoming director-general to further build on the constructive relationship the GAC has with DOC.

“The future of hunting and its contribution to conservation in New Zealand is exciting, and we are committed to working with DOC on developing sustainable game animal management solutions that will provide great hunting and enduring conservation outcomes for a long time to come.”

Penny Nelson. Photo: Supplied

Fish & Game NZ chairperson Ray Grubb said Sanson has been “a proud ambassador for the great outdoors”.

“Lou has been a true friend to anglers and game bird hunters nationwide; he has worked tirelessly to protect habitat and promote access to the outdoors.

“The popularity of all forms of outdoor recreation and how more and more New Zealanders are using the conservation estate is evidence of this.

“Through this, anglers and game bird hunters have seen the benefit of DOC’s work to promote access with more places to fish and more places to hunt.

“As a passionate protector of the environment, he has marshalled communities across the country to get involved and to protect New Zealand’s wildlife.”

Bruce Parkes has been appointed acting chief executive from 14 September.

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