Tireless conservationist receives top honours

Avid conservationist Linda Conning has been honoured as a Distinguished Life Member by Forest & Bird for her outstanding service to the organisation and efforts to protect the environment.

Linda Conning

Linda Conning

The award is the Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand’s highest award and was announced at its ‘Face up to the Future’ conference in Wellington at the weekend.

The Bay of Plenty planning consultant has played a leading role in Forest & Bird’s advocacy for nature for numerous years.

Her legal work for the Society, both on its Legal Sub-committee and representing the Society in the Environment Court, has paved the way for envinonmental gains around the country.

During the last 10 years, Linda Conning has worked for better protection of wetlands and significant natural areas by district councils in Whakatane and western Bay of Plenty.

Forest & Bird’s North Island Conservation Manager Mark Bellingham says her work has greatly helped promote the protection of significant natural areas in the upper North Island and “set the pattern for how councils, landowners and Forest & Bird should address biodiversity conservation in the future, through the planning process”.

She was also involved in Forest & Bird’s groundbreaking challenge over forest clearance near Taumaranui in 1996, a legal battle which eventually set precedents for biodiversity protection under the Resource Management Act.

Forest & Bird Executive member Ines Stager has worked with Linda Conning for over 15 years and credits her “tireless” effort and “thorough ecological and legal knowledge” for her environmental wins.

“More recently, Linda has led the successful case to protect the landscape values at Kohi Point in Whakatane from poorly designed and located subdivision development. This case, which has been running for 10 years typifies Linda’s thoroughness and commitment to the long haul,” Ines Stager says.

Linda Conning worked as a conservation officer at the Department of Conservation from 1994 to 1998. She later undertook ecological surveys and reported for the Protected Natural Area Programme to seek protection of kiwi habitats, forests, wetlands and shrublands in district and regional plans.

For nine years, she was a member of the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA). Her legal and ecological expertise assisted with many  NZCA submissions, conservation management strategies and developing policy for conservation lands and national parks.

Linda Conning has additionally been a staunch conservationist at a grassroots level, largely through her local Forest & Bird branch.

A passion for New Zealand wildlife prompted her to spearhead an education and awareness campaign to protect kereru in Northland (kukupa).