Forest & Bird's community starts with its amazing members, which are grouped into 45 branches throughout New Zealand.
Our branches are responsible for electing a national Board. After consulting with their members, branches name a panel of Councillors to meet in Wellington and elect the Board.
Our Strategic Plan
The Board is our Society’s governance body and is accountable to the members. On behalf of the Society’s members and supporters, it strives to optimise the society’s performance in the achievement of nature conservation outcomes.
Mark Hanger, President (Dunedin Branch)
Armed with a degree in botany, an adventurous spirit and an effervescent love of nature, Mark Hanger got himself the ultimate job as a nature tour guide 25 years ago, however, year by year he’s seen wilds of the south change dramatically in the drive towards development.
When he’s not tripping around the foothills and mountain peaks of Aotearoa, he can be found in his hectare of native garden, or growing and processing cider apples.
As well as being a self-confessed tree-hugger, he’s a climate change activist, a water conservation guru, and - more recently - a seabird re-homer. He ultimately wants to return all of the seven lost species of seabirds once found along the Otago coast back to their former homeland.
Kate Graeme, Deputy President (Tauranga Branch)
Kate Graeme is a Tauranga branch committee member and the local Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC) coordinator, and a volunteer in the pest control team at Aongatete Forest in the western Bay of Plenty.
Kate was previously a policy advisor on climate change for the Minister of Transport and on freshwater policy for the Department of Conservation.
As the daughter of long-time Forest & Bird members and former staffers Basil and Ann Graeme, Kate has a strong conservation background.
She sees an effective freshwater management system, support for 1080 pest control and climate change as the top conservation issues. Kate joined the Board in 2014.
Alan Chow, Treasurer (North Canterbury Branch)
Alan is a Chartered Accountant (New Zealand) and Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA Australia).
He has Governance Experience in Not-for-Profit Organisations and Senior Management Experience in Not-for-Profit Companies.
Being a Xennial, The Microgeneration between Gen X and Millennials, Alan’s priorities are encouraging the younger generations to Nature & Conservation; making it easier for everyone to support Forest & Bird.
A firm believer in economic success and sustainability being complimentary, Alan is keen to see New Zealand becoming the economic success story around the world by being sustainable and looking after the environment for future generations.
Chris Barker (Wellington Branch)
For over 35 years Chris has been a member of Forest & Bird. He works in both private and public sectors and has developed strong commercial acumen, a deep customer lens, and the ability to work with complex stakeholder relationships.
Chris' love of nature was heavily influenced from an early age by his Grandparents, the late Stan and Gloria Butcher, and he believes we are stewards for the next generation.
He brings energy and a questioning mind with a leaning towards opportunities, while also understanding and being able to evaluate the risks.
Kaya Freeman (North Canterbury Branch)
With an overwhelming passion for sustainability, climate change and the protection of nature, Kaya brings her energy and drive to her role on the Board. Having lived and worked across the country and around the world, Kaya's experiences have fuelled her desire to protect the natural world and restore nature for future generations.
Looking ahead, Kaya recognises that young people of today will be facing challenges far beyond our expectations, and wants to facilitate a youth voice in conversations of biodiversity and climate change. Her long-standing career in strategic planning and nature-based solutions feeds directly into Forest & Bird's desired outcomes for Aotearoa.
Kaya spends her spare time working for greater environmental protections, trapping and planting in the local reserves, and adventuring in the great outdoors.
Ben Kepes (North Canterbury Branch)
Ben Kepes has spent a lifetime walking (and sometimes running) through New Zealand's mountains and valleys. Based in rural North Canterbury, Ben has been involved in youth environmental education and community planting and trapping initiatives.
Ben is the majority shareholder of Cactus Outdoor, maker of some of the toughest outdoor and workwear and now the largest apparel manufacturer in New Zealand. A professional director, Ben sits on the boards of a number of organisations, including, crown-owned entities, council-controlled trading organisations, not-for-profit entities and privately owned businesses.
Ben is passionate about leaving a positive legacy on the world around him.
Vanessa Macdonald (Warkworth Area Branch)
Vanessa grew up on a sailing boat in the Caribbean, which gave her an intimate connection to nature – and an appreciation of our natural resources – from an early age.
Her love for animals led Vanessa to a career as a veterinarian, predominantly in the primary industries in different capacities across many countries.
With more than 20 years’ experience, she has been GM of Zoetis NZ for five years, is a chartered member of the Institute of Directors of NZ and is Animal and Plant Health NZ’s Board President since July 2023.
Vanessa brings strategic thinking, business acumen, and a touch of French passion to her role on the Board.
Bruce Clarkson (Waikato Branch)
Bruce has devoted his life to the protection and restoration of indigenous nature in Aotearoa New Zealand, making significant contributions to conservation research, education, protection, and restoration of native plants and ecosystems over a more than 40-year career.
Since 2016 he has led ‘People, Cities and Nature’, a research programme focusing on restoring damaged or depleted indigenous ecosystems in urban environments.
As Bruce’s career has evolved to focus more on the changes needed to reverse biodiversity, he'd like to apply his governance experience, professional expertise, and advocacy skills to save our unique indigenous flora and fauna – and reverse the crisis we currently face where more than 75% of our birds, bats, fish, and reptiles are threatened with extinction.