Groundbreaking new programme addresses skills shortage in parks sector

10 October 2023 | News

A strong demand for more leaders to manage Aotearoa New Zealand’s parks has prompted the launch of a “life-changing” new programme at Lincoln University.

The Master of Parks Management will begin in November, following a call from the New Zealand Parks Leaders Forum (PLF) to address an urgent skills shortage in the sector. And fees are free to domestic students until the end of 2024.

Associate Professors Emma Stewart and Stephen Espiner, who co-designed the qualification, say it is the first of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and builds on Lincoln University’s long history of teaching parks and recreation programmes.

“Many of our academics also have strong expertise in fields aligned to parks, including visitor management, conservation biology, wildlife management, environmental policy and planning, Māori resource management, tourism and outdoor recreation,” Dr Stewart said.

“This means we can offer a truly interdisciplinary programme that provides social, cultural, environmental and business contexts to parks management.”

According to PLF Board Convenor Geoff Canham, the programme is world leading, “reflecting New Zealand’s exemplar status on a number of parks, recreation and environmental topics”.

“We fundamentally believe this life-changing new qualification will both address an acute shortage in filling leadership roles while attracting senior students and vocational learners from abroad.”

Mr Canham runs Thrive Spaces and Places, a specialist parks and recreation consultancy that has employed a number of Lincoln University alumni.

Jessica Hughes Hutton, a Lincoln graduate who completed her Master of Applied Science in Parks, Recreation and Tourism in 2017, said the new programme would be an excellent addition to the university’s offerings.

Now a Parks Planner for the Queenstown Lakes District Council, she loves actively contributing to a healthier and stronger community “by maintaining our important green spaces”.

“I get to work on projects that provide a good challenge, as well as opportunities to get out and about in the community and nature,” she said. “I love that I am constantly meeting like-minded people who share the same passion for the environment.”

Jess is clear about Lincoln’s top credentials when it comes to preparing students for parks management careers.

“Completing both my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at Lincoln University prepared me for a successful career in the parks sector,” she said. “The lecturers are incredibly knowledgeable and the classes are small enough that they really get to know you on a personal level and will go the extra mile to provide a supportive and encouraging environment while you study.

“Most importantly, the practical, hands-on skills I developed at Lincoln have really helped me in the working world.

“Speaking at conferences, undertaking research in remote locations, and tutoring fellow students who were just starting their university journeys are just a few examples of how I was able to gain experience and make connections that have set me up for success in the industry.

“I have been lucky to work with many people who started their parks careers at Lincoln.”

Since graduating, Jess has gained experience in central and local government roles, as well as in the private sector. Her current role involves helping to develop parks and open space strategies that benefit the wellbeing of the community and environment.

“I get to work with some awesome people in one of the most stunning natural landscapes in New Zealand,” she said.

Bridget Elliott, who studied Lincoln University’s Bachelor of Environmental Management with an additional major in Parks & Recreation, now works as a biodiversity planner at Waipā District Council.

Like Jess, she found her Lincoln education instrumental in laying the groundwork for a successful career.

“I gained technical knowledge and skills that I use in my job now, such as interpreting key legislation,” she said. “But it also gave me confidence and support, as well as the ability to create industry connections early on.

“I love working in the parks sector because there is so much diversity in the work we do. No two days are ever the same. I also particularly love that we get out and about in the parks and reserves quite frequently.”

Learn more about the new Master of Parks Management here.
Lincoln University graduate Jessica Hughes Hutton loves working in the parks sector.