Taupo’s Laura Dawson receives Forest & Bird Old Blue award

Laura Dawson of Taupo has been awarded one of Forest & Bird’s top honours, the Old Blue, for four decades of service to conservation.

A member of New Zealand’s leading independent conservation organisation since 1974, Laura Dawson has had many roles in conservation at a national, regional and local level. She received the award at Forest & Bird’s annual conference in Wellington on Saturday night (June 25).

Laura said conservation is a team effort and the important thing is to draw people in by making them aware of the issues.

“I think you learn as much from the other people as you contribute yourself. To me, this award is for all the people I’ve worked alongside over the years,” she said.

More than two decades ago, she and another local conservationist drew attention to declining water quality in Lake Taupo. The publicity that followed helped lead eventually to a trailblazing nitrogen management scheme which has reduced nitrogen going into the lake by 20 percent.

Laura was Forest & Bird’s representative on the New Zealand Conservation Authority from 2000 to 2002 and was an invited speaker in 2010 at the Iceland Environmental Association conferences.

She has been a member of the Taupo branch of Forest & Bird since 1974 and has served as chair and secretary, a post she currently holds.

Over the years, Laura has been involved in many regional environmental groups, including the Tongariro-Taupo Conservation Board, Environment Waikato Advisory Committee for Regional Environment, Lake Taupo Protection Society and Waipahihi Botanical Society.

For 11 years she has been a trustee and chair of the Central North Island Blue Duck Charitable Conservation Trust and last year received the Tongariro-Taupo Conservation Board Individual Leadership award.

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.