John Topliff awarded an Old Blue

The supporting citation reads as follows: "John Topliff is honoured for his longstanding work with Forest and Bird on the Kapiti Coast. He has been active in restoring the banks of the Waikanae River and with other ecological projects including Kaitawa Reserve in Paraparaumu."

John Topliff receiving his Old Blue award from Tony Ward

Old Blue awards are named after the Chatham Islands black robin called Old Blue who helped save her species from extinction during the early 1980s. They represent the highest honour awarded by Forest and Bird.

They are presented only to a handful of members each year who have made outstanding contributions to Forest & Bird and to conservation.

John received his honour for long service to conservation projects on the Kapiti Coast and in particular for his one-man crusade to revitalise the south bank of the Waikanae River.

He has breathed life into the river margin by eradicating exotic weeds, converting dead swamps into ecological wetlands and replanting other areas with native species. Over the last ten years he has spent countless hours clearing and planting the river bank and has supervised many primary and secondary school planting days with children organised by the KCC Co-ordinator.

The result is an ecological and recreational corridor, widely used by people and birds alike. There are now large areas of young forest trees, walkways and bridle paths winding along a river bank where once there was weed infested dereliction.

One example of John's work: A waterlogged, weed infested riverside area with large exotic trees, now transformed into a wetland with shallow ponds screened by native grasses, flaxes and trees.

He is also a respected facilitator between local residents, the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC), who share responsibility for the river and as first chair of the Friends of the Waikanae River, he negotiated funding from the GWRC for the restoration programme.

For the past ten years John has also been an active participant in the Kaitawa restoration project and a regular helper at the branch nursery.