Dunedin photographer gains top Forest & Bird award

Dunedin photographer and film-maker Rod Morris has been honoured for his outstanding conservation work with a top Forest & Bird Old Blue award.

Mr Morris has been a wildlife photographer and film-maker for 30 years and during the past two years has campaigned to save the West Coast’s Denniston Plateau from an open-cast coal mine.

“With Denniston, seeing what mining company Solid Energy had done to nearby Stockton Plateau shocked me out of simply being a passive observer,” he says.

He has toured New Zealand holding public meetings to highlight the unique landscape and native plants and animals threatened if a coal mine goes ahead. He has spent hundreds of hours showing the plateau’s natural riches to the media and others, as well as gathering photographic evidence for Forest & Bird’s Environment Court case to stop the mine.

Mr Morris helped Forest & Bird Top of the South Field Officer Debs Martin and others in organising a BioBlitz on the Denniston Plateau last year, bringing scientists and volunteers together to catalogue some of the plants and animals found in the unique environment.

The Old Blue award is particularly apt for Mr Morris, whose lifelong work for nature includes six years working for the Wildlife Service under the late Don Merton on projects including saving the Chatham Islands black robin species. The last productive female robin was named Old Blue.

“Old Blue became a household word in New Zealand in those years. It was a very inspirational time really, both for the country and for all us young guys who Don had taken out to the Chathams,” Mr Morris says.

He later spent more than two decades making award-winning documentaries for the Natural History Unit, inspired by Michael Stedman. In the past decade Mr Morris has devoted more time to still photography and writing books about wildlife and wild places.

The Old Blue award will be presented to Mr Morris in Wellington on June 29 at Forest & Bird’s 90th anniversary dinner.