Nobody knows the Myall Lakes quite like Kevin Carter.
The former district forester and area manager for National Parks has reflected on a career designed to preserve the flora and fauna of the region.
Hailing from Tamworth, Kevin had a passion for the outdoors, spending his days rock climbing, caving and hiking.
He landed a university scholarship at the end of the 1960s with the Forestry Commission of NSW, splitting his time between Armidale and Canberra to become a qualified forester.
From here he was posted to Dorrigo before moving to Gloucester to help build the Barrington Tops Road.
Kevin spent six years there, learning about the trade of forestry and the different types of forest spanning to the Upper Hunter.
A brief stint woodchipping in Bega would be his final stop before being appointed Bulahdelah area manager in 1984.
"It was quite challenging and interesting because it's a regrowth forest,” Kevin said.
After the office closed in 1997 Kevin travelled to Taree daily from Bulahdelah to manage Barrington Tops, Walcha, Armidale and the Manning Valley.
When National Parks was allocated more land in 1999 Kevin was appointed National Parks area manager for the Manning.
"We put on local people and local staff and we were very much an expansionary role of setting up the national parks,” he said.
"And we took over a lot of country that had all the recreational resources in it.”
It was here Kevin said he did his best work, fixing fire trails, completing road works and picnic areas, installing fencing to keep cattle out of the national parks, dog and feral animal work, bushfire fighting and hazard reduction burning.
"I had to learn to be a lot more sensitive about the environment and what we were doing.
"We did end up getting things done in national parks because we came from that other philosophy – beautiful forest, lovely people, excellent staff that we put on and we did a lot of very good things.
"In my opinion, we built up some terrific relationships with people, people respected you and that is still there today.”
He understood the importance of being recognised in the community so the National Parks team was featured at multiple events during the year including Taree’s Envirofair, Wingham show, Nabiac show and the Old Bar Festival.
"We were there in a tent saying bring it on, come and talk to us about conservation, come and talk to us about problems in your area, feral animals and that really worked.
“In the end you didn't have any major issues because everyone knew you were there and we could get our message across too.”
In 2012 the National Parks and Wildlife Service was restructured, amalgamating the Taree and Port Macquarie offices.
With it came the end of Kevin’s 43 year long career.
"I'd reached roughly retirement age so I took the package and left.
"Overall, I really enjoyed my time in National Parks, I had some excellent staff and we produced some really good things.”
Kevin now spends his days volunteering at the Bulahdelah Information Centre, heading up the town’s historical society and serving as a director of the local aged care facility.
It’s his passion for the Bulahdelah community that keeps him driven.
"It's pretty damn nice.
"I'm a pretty busy person within the community as well as slowing down and being retired.”
Kevin recalls a moment that captures his dedication to the Myall Lakes.
"I remember I was in helicopter where we took a photo of a houseboat sitting down in the middle of Myall Lake and honestly it was midweek, there wasn't anything else in the photo, it was just this one little boat in the middle of this lake, clear as can be, and all the bush around it.
"We came up with the thing called the unspoiled escape; where else could you get out and see mankind with no towers, no high-rise building, no cities in the corner.”
Kevin hopes he can leave behind a legacy, highlighting the importance of conserving the environment for the future.
"I used to ask everybody at work in the parks: ‘Did we make it a better place after today's work?’ and the answer should be yes.
"We owe it to future generations to preserve it and leave it in a better condition.
"At the end of the day, all those tiny little steps have helped make it better. I think that it’s all getting a bit better and it’s all because it’s worth having.
"I would like to think future generations will embrace what we are trying to do.”