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Kate Graeme, Forest & Bird President 2024. Image supplied

Forest & Bird’s new President, and the first woman to hold the role in 101 years, is Kate Graeme of Tauranga. Ms Graeme has been deputy President since 2016 and on the board since 2014, and now takes over the President role from Mark Hanger.

Ms Graeme is taking on the position at one of the most critical times for the conservation movement in Aotearoa New Zealand. The mounting list of threats to our wildlife and wild places include the Fast-track Approvals Bill, cuts to Department of Conservation's (DOC’s) funding and staffing, reversing the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration, risks to freshwater and stewardship land, and much more. 

“For more than 100 years Forest & Bird has always stood up for nature in Aotearoa and I feel incredibly proud to be part of it,” Ms Graeme says.

In 2023 her parents, Basil and Ann Graeme, were both made Distinguished Life Members for their decades of dedicated service as active branch members and staff members. Her mother, Ann, ran Forest & Bird's kids' club, the Kiwi Conservation Club for more than 20 years in the 1980s and 1990s. Ms Graeme shares her passion for supporting the next generations of conservationists. 

“Young nature lovers are our future conservationists, and it fills me with hope seeing the rise of Forest & Bird Youth,” Ms Graeme says.

As a Tauranga Forest & Bird branch committee member, Ms Graeme is currently working on several conservation projects in the region, including a Forest & Bird project she instigated to stop the death of pōhutukawa from possum browsing at Lake Rotoiti Scenic Reserve. 

“We have to be proactive to keep the things we love about Aotearoa and its unique native species and habitats. Loss can happen incrementally over time and escape notice – much like the Lake Rotoiti pōhutukawa – until suddenly it’s too late and they are gone.” 

Ms Graeme is also a trustee on several other conservation projects in the Tauranga region, including the Manaaki Kaimai Mamaku Trust, the Aongatete Forest Project, and the national Save the Kiwi Trust.

2024 Forest & Bird awards
Forest & Bird has also announced the winners of the organisation's annual honours at their AGM today. Names and citations are below, with full media releases and photos on all our award recipients available for download here.

  • Old Blue Award
    Richard Hursthouse (North Shore, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland)
    For his outstanding service to Forest & Bird and to conservation in Auckland and Aotearoa New Zealand. Richard served on the North Shore Branch committee from 2007, including as Chair from 2011 to 2019. He was a member of Forest & Bird’s national board from 2019 to 2023. His energy, passion and organisational skills have driven many conservation initiatives in Auckland and nationally.
  • Old Blue Award
    Sally Richardson (Warkworth)
    For her outstanding service to Forest & Bird and conservation, especially in the Auckland region. The long-time Warkworth Area member chaired the branch for more than eight years and has been active in branch projects such as Kōwhai Park and the Sesquicentennial Walkway. Sally has also played important roles in other major conservation projects, including Tāwharanui Open Sanctuary and in teaching students of all ages about the environment for over 50 years.
  • Branch Award
    South Canterbury Branch (Canterbury)
    For its outstanding work in protecting and enhancing nature in its region over many years. The branch advocates for nature through submissions and working with local and regional authorities and other organisations. It is active in controlling pest animals and plants in reserves and other land. Members have worked for decades to protect and enhance the rare low plains bush at Arowhenua, which has been bought by Forest & Bird to ensure permanent protection.
  • Te Kaiārahi Rangatahi o te Taiao Youth Award
    Nate Wilbourne (Brightwater, Tasman)
    For his outstanding service to Forest & Bird Youth and to conservation in the Top of the South and Aotearoa New Zealand. Nate became a member of Forest & Bird Youth at 13, leading and inspiring other young people from across Nelson and the Top of the South Island. His leadership and passion have helped drive conservation efforts in Nelson and nationally.
  • Tī Kouka Awards
    Neil Baxter, Taupō 
    For his exceptional service to Forest & Bird’s Taupō Branch and to conservation in the area. Neil chaired the branch from 2012 to 2022. He also led the main branch restoration project at Opepe, east of Taupō, a remnant area of old growth podocarps. After stepping down as chair he continued to coordinate trapping volunteers there and worked with the Department of Conservation and predator control contractors.
    Mike and Sandra Goodwin, Rotorua
    For their exceptional service as a team to Forest & Bird and to conservation in the Western Bay of Plenty and South Waikato. Both were long-serving Rotorua Branch committee members at various times and have played an important part in the Landcare Ōkāreka projects. Mike’s various projects included a leading role in the Tikitapu Forest & Bird Care Group mistletoe recovery project and Sandra’s many activities include two terms on the Waikato Conservation Board.   
    Sharyn Gunn, Kāpiti-Mana
    For her exceptional service to the Kapiti-Mana branch and its Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC) for children. Sharyn has been involved with KCC for two decades and for much of that time was coordinator. Her enthusiasm ensured her love of nature was embraced by large numbers of children. She organised a huge number of outings for her KCC branch and members from the wider region.
    Lynne McLellan, Upper Hutt
    For her exceptional service to Forest & Bird’s Upper Hutt branch and to conservation in the region. A longtime member of the branch, and committee member since 2009, Lynne has played important roles in many of the branch’s activities, including producing the newsletter, advocacy, planning and particularly in organising and recruiting volunteers for the branch nursery. Lynne has been a passionate voice for nature in Upper Hutt.


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