Leigh couple receive leading Forest & Bird award

Neil Sutherland and Sheryl Corbett have been awarded one of Forest & Bird’s highest honours, the Old Blue, for more than two decades of service to conservation on Auckland’s North Shore and the Leigh area.

Neil and Sheryl have been active at committee level in both the North Shore and Warkworth – formerly Mid-North – branches. Both have also been active in projects to regenerate native vegetation areas and clear weeds.

They received the award at Forest & Bird’s conference in Wellington on Saturday night (June 25).

Neil said it was the people the couple worked with that kept them motivated over such a long time.

“If it wasn’t for the wonderful people we have met through Forest & Bird, I don’t think we would have done what we did,” Neil said.

“It’s a big thrill that it is a joint award because we are a team. Sometimes we go off and do some things on our own but most things we have done together.”

After the couple joined the North Shore branch in 1992, Sheryl organised speakers and publicised monthly meetings, leading to a large increase in attendances.

Both became involved in a weeding programme at Little Shoal Bay, which later extended into the adjacent Le Roy’s Bush, with Neil serving as chair of the Le Roy’s Bush Management committee until 2007. Both were active members of the weeding teams at the Millennium Forest at Tuff Crater.

Neil served on the North Shore committee for a number of years and was chairman from 2004 until they left for Leigh in 2007.

After their move, they became active members of the Mid-North branch. They formed the Forest & Bird Leigh Community Coast Care Group to control moth plant and other weeds and carry out native revegetation along several kilometres of coastline. Both have been volunteers on Little Barrier (Hauturu), Motuora, and Tiritiri Matangi Islands in the Hauraki Gulf.

The Old Blue is awarded annually by New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation to people who have made a significant contribution to Forest & Bird or to the organisation’s conservation goals.

The award commemorates the last breeding female black robin which, thanks to work led by pioneering conservationist Don Merton, saved her species from extinction in the 1980s.