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Ms van der Goes has been Otago's community relations manager for the past four years and replaces Jeff Connell, who is due to retire in September after 20 years in the role.
The first woman to hold the role was Stella Penny, Waikato's conservator in the 1990s, and being only the second was a responsibility, Ms van der Goes said.
She believed New Zealanders needed to recognise the importance of conservation to the economy and the 100% Pure brand. A more immediate challenge was the tough economic climate, with the department having to find better ways to work.
"While Doc is a leader in conservation, it is not exclusively ours. We need to work more closely with others."
Ms van der Goes was a member of the New Zealand Conservation Authority for nine years and a former member of the West Coast Conservation Board.
With husband Ray Grubb, she owned and managed Lake Brunner Lodge. She is also the former chairwoman of Tourism West Coast and the West Coast District Health Board.