Forest & Bird honours South Waikato conservationists

 Forest & Bird has announced Jack and Anne Groos of Tokoroa as winners of its prestigious Old Blue award for a quarter of a century’s exceptional commitment to conservation in South Waikato.

Jack and Anne Groos

Jack and Anne Groos

The Groos have both taken key roles in Forest & Bird’s South Waikato branch since it was formed in 1987 and have driven many conservation and environmental projects in the area. They were presented with their awards at Forest & Bird’s annual conference this weekend.

“They are very different people but they work together very well. Anne works with people and Jack is more single-minded and between them they are very effective,” said former branch chairman and Forest & Bird Distinguished Life Member Gordon Stephenson.

Jack Groos has been on the branch committee for 25 years, served as secretary for 23 years and has also published the branch newsletter for the last 15 years.

Since 2004, he has been on the committee for the Jim Barnett Reserve, a valuable 25 ha remnant of native bush at Waotu, near Putaruru, and has taken charge of working parties for planting, weed control and other work. 

He has also raised $32,000 in the last four years for buying trees – more than 10,000  - and other materials for the reserve. 

 “Jack has an incredible facility for raising money, he has raised thousands for restoration,” Gordon Stephenson  said.

Three years ago he started another project at Lake Moana-Nui in Tokoroa. Jack and a team of volunteers have been removing weeds and willows and have planted  around 1000 trees, grasses and flaxes.

“Jack is persistent. He cajoles people to join him in his work, and worries away like a terrier at tasks until they are completed,” Gordon Stephenson said.

Anne Groos is a natural  leader and initiator, he said, and has been the driving force behind a number of important environmental initiatives in Tokoroa.

She once carried out a survey of  residents in Tokoroa about the types, frequency and effects of  odours coming from the Kinleith Pulp and Paper mill. As a result the mill worked to reduce its discharges into the air.

“Tokoroa also had a lot of problems being caused by possums so Anne organised a possum kill in the town that led to her becoming known as “Possum Annie”, Gordon Stephenson said.

“Anne is brilliant at getting on with people and getting them to work together. She is a leader without being demanding,” he said.  

The Groos were among four Old Blue awards announced at the conference in Wellington. The awards are named for the Chatham Islands black robin called Old Blue which was the last productive female of her species by the late 1970s. The efforts of Old Blue and a Wildlife Service team led by the late Don Merton enabled the population to recover from a low of five to around 200 today.