The deaths of three men in yesterday’s helicopter crash in Wanaka is a huge and deeply felt personal loss for the Department of Conservation (DOC) whanau and New Zealand conservation, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said today.
Scott Theobald, Ranger Biodiversity, Paul (Hondy) Hondelink, Senior Ranger Biodiversity and Nick Wallis, Director and General Manager of Alpine Helicopters were flying to undertake tahr control in the Haast area when their helicopter crashed.
“This is a tragedy for their families and DOC staff are also reeling from the loss of these highly skilled, dedicated and experienced professionals,” Eugenie Sage said.
“Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald were each conservation legends and pioneers in their respective fields . The loss of Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald as individuals and the loss of their conservation knowledge and expertise is deeply felt,” Eugenie Sage said.
“Paul Hondelink was DOC’s foremost professional chamois and tahr hunter using his expertise to organise large scale aerial control operations to protect our mountain lands. He was a conservation expert with incredible knowledge from his 47 years in DOC and previous agencies. He was highly regarded in the Wanaka community assisting with search and rescue and fire control work.
“Scott Theobald started DOC’s work with conservation dogs and has provided his expertise internationally including to help control mongoose in Japan. Again his loss is hard to quantify it is so great.
“Conservation is important to so many New Zealanders. Every day the dedicated work of DOC staff helps protect our wild places and special forest.
“Nick Wallis’s experience as a pilot is well known. He was also a passionate conservationist and someone DOC valued and enjoyed working with. His loss is deeply felt by the conservation community.”
Today Ms Sage visited the DOC Twizel office where Paul Hondelink and Scott Theobald worked and the Wanaka office where Paul Hondelink worked for many years. She also met with the families.