A natural high

12 Jul 2011

By Andrew Cutler 

Kia ora koutou. I’m writing my first column for on a natural high – not herbal and completely legal.

Why? Because the members who participated in the 2011 Conference are telling me it was one of the best they’ve attended.

Why was it so good? The theme – Freshwater for Life – is one of the key issues for Forest & Bird, the speakers were excellent and the organisation superb. Even the best efforts of the Chilean volcano to disrupt our programme didn’t succeed; we used Skype to deliver an almost carbonneutral presentation from Rod Oram, live from his home in Auckland.

Many people have told me that Mike Joy’s passionate speech on the freshwater crisis of our lowland rivers, streams and estuaries was the outstanding presentation of the conference.

Mike also emphasised the importance of building strong, independent conservation organisations like Forest & Bird. Quite simply we cannot rely on central and local government, or their agencies, to be advocates for the protection of our streams and rivers.

The conference also discussed the importance of advocating for action
on climate change, and for developing a smart, sustainable economy. These
are new issues for our organisation and are refl ected in our new Strategic
Plan.

Why are they important to nature conservation? Because unsustainable economic choices made now, such as opening new coal mines, consenting new dams on wild rivers and allowing intensive farming to expand will have huge consequences for our native flora and fauna in years to come.

The conference was also an opportunity to celebrate the fortitude and
achievements of our members with the awarding of a Distinguished Life
Membership to Eugenie Sage, Old Blues to Alex Kettles (Lower Hutt),
John Groom (Eastern Bay of Plenty), Andy Dennis (Nelson), Jon Wenham
(Waikato) and Mike Joy.

The Golden Spade went to North Shore Branch for the Tuff Crater restoration project, and the Pestbuster award to the Pelorus Bat Recovery project.

Congratulations to everyone.

So it was a stimulating and interesting weekend. It was great to catch up with
friends and to meet fi rst time attendees like Lincoln Jackson from Hauraki
Islands branch. My thanks also to staff who put in so much effort to make the
weekend a success. The Executive and staff aim to build on the success of this
year’s conference to deliver another natural high next year. So put the June
2012 Conference in your diaries.

Nga mihi nui.