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Aotearoa New Zealand’s longest-running independent conservation organisation, which turns 100 on 28 March 2023, is holding three Big Birthday Bash events around the motu this coming weekend.
The Big Birthday Bashes are being hosted at Forest & Bird’s Lenz Reserve, in the Catlins, and at its Bushy Park Tarapuruhi Sanctuary, Whanganui, on 25 March 2023. The third is being held at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, Te Tauihu-o-te-waka Marlborough, home to a decades-long Te Hoiere bat recovery project, on 26 March. There will be activities for the whole whānau, including scavenger hunts, tours, photo competitions, and eating lots of birthday cake!
“Our three big birthday bashes are a tribute to 100 years of hope and action by tens of thousands of conservation volunteers. They've worked for nature in some remote parts of the country like the Lenz Reserve, in the Catlins, which our branches have been looking after since 1964,” says Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive Nicola Toki.
“I’d like to invite everyone to come along to experience these special places, enjoy being outside in te taiao nature, and meet some of the people helping look after these landscapes and the unique species that call them home.”
Ms Toki is attending the celebration at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve with its stunning riverside location and huge old kahikatea trees. The Golden Bay and West Coast Forest & Bird branches are hosting two smaller events this same weekend.
The Big Birthday Bashes kick off a year of centennial celebrations aimed at encouraging all Kiwis to think about how they can help look after nature in their backyards and leave an enduring legacy for future generations of New Zealanders.
Other events include the launch of a beautiful set of centennial stamps created in partnership with NZ Post, a Force of Nature CD with classical music inspired by Forest & Bird’s environmental work, a year-long speaker series on a range of conservation topics, the chance to nominate your favourite Conservation Hero, and a centennial conference at Te Papa in late July.
“Forest & Bird has been at the forefront of hundreds of successful campaigns over the past century that have helped protect the whenua land, awa rivers, and moana oceans,” adds Ms Toki.
“Having a wide base of volunteers who carry out predator control, weeding and planting across the country, leads to more effective action on the ground, and helps provide opportunities to connect communities to our wonderful, unique natural environments."
Highlights over the past 100 years include helping establish nature sanctuaries and national parks all over Aotearoa and leading a campaign to establish a World Heritage Site in Westland. Forest & Bird also played a key role in the Save Manapouri Campaign, stopped logging in numerous forests, pioneered community-led island restorations, successfully fought for new marine protected areas, helped numerous threatened species, created precedent-setting environmental legislation, and led campaigns to establish the Department of Conservation and Predator Free NZ 2050.
Today Forest & Bird continues to advocate for a stronger, more resilient natural world. Current campaigns include no new mines on conservation land, increasing effective pest control on New Zealand’s forests, doubling our area of natural wetland, making room for rivers to help reduce flooding, and calling for more marine protected areas and stronger fishing regulations.
“Working together is critical if we are to find solutions to the two most-pressing global challenges of our generation – climate change and biodiversity loss,” says Ms Toki.
“Forest & Bird’s history is one of hope and action, and I think we're at a crucial point for us all to reflect on what our legacy will be.
“I have hope for our future because we are a nation whose lives are shaped by our relationships to the natural world. Te taiao nature is ingrained in New Zealanders’ DNA.”  
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On 28 March 1923, Forest & Bird’s founder Captain Ernest Val Sanderson and a small group of dedicated conservationists established the Native Bird Protection Society in Wellington to protect the country’s unique birds and bush. It became the Forest & Bird Protection Society of New Zealand in 1935. It was the country’s first national conservation group.
By the late 1940s, Forest & Bird branches started springing up all over the country and since then the organisation has grown to have 113,000 supporters, 45 branches, a Kiwi Conservation Club network and Forest & Bird Youth hubs for children and young people. Volunteers currently look after 37 Forest & Bird-owned nature reserves all over the country, from Northland to Southland, and branches help manage more than 120 frontline conservation projects.

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