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Tributes to the life’s work of visionary Forest & Bird founder, Captain Ernest “Val” Sanderson, will be unveiled this weekend in Paekākāriki, where he lived and launched his campaigns to protect nature across the motu. 

Sanderson founded Forest & Bird – known then as the Native Bird Protection Society – on 28 March 1923. He was inspired to do so following the success of his 1922 campaign to protect and restore the flora and fauna of his beloved Kāpiti Island.   

This weekend, part of the newly restored Waikākāriki wetland in Paekākāriki will be named “Sanderson’s Way” and marked with special signage detailing Val Sanderson’s significant contribution to nature protection in the Kāpiti region and across Aotearoa.   

Paul Callister, a long-term volunteer with local conservation group Ngā Uruora says the organisation’s members “feel both inspired and humbled to be following in the footsteps of Sanderson in restoring the Waikākāriki wetland.”  

“When we started, the area was covered in weeds and seemed a very challenging project. But already the wetland areas look very healthy and are starting to be surrounded by the podocarp forests that would once have been common in the area.”   

Ngā Uruora partnered with the Kāpiti-Mana branch of Forest & Bird to help install the new signage honouring Sanderson’s work, near where he lived and dedicated himself to saving endangered flora and fauna. The signage, funded by Wellington Community Trust, is a permanent tribute to Sanderson.   

Five tōtara are to be planted in Sanderson’s memory at the event.  

There will also be an exhibition of historical artefacts relating to his work called “Inspired by Sanderson” - a collaboration between Forest & Bird, Paekākāriki Station Museum and local conservation groups.   

At the event, members of Sanderson’s family will hand over some of his historic possessions, including the trusty typewriter Sanderson used to hammer out numerous editorials, and letters to government officials demanding improved conservation policy.    

Forest & Bird’s Chief Executive, Nicola Toki, says it is an honour to acknowledge the legacy of the organisation’s founder with the new tribute as the organisation celebrates 100 years of conservation mahi. 

“Captain Val once said ‘give nature a chance and she will repair the damage’. His work to protect Kāpiti Island proved that was true, and placing a tribute to him within the newly restored Waikākāriki wetland is homage to that belief," says Ms Toki.  

"Val Sanderson's dedication to conservation was inspired by a love for his local wildlife. That same passion and commitment to protecting te taiao remains at the heart of Forest & Bird today." 

The celebrations take place over two days, starting with the official opening of Sanderson’s Way on Saturday 29, meeting at St Peter’s Village Hall in Paekākāriki.  

Tribute to Sanderson Day 1
Tribute to Sanderson Day 2

At midday on Saturday, there will be speeches to mark the event and Sanderson’s connection with the district, also at St Peter’s Village Hall. Afterwards the exhibition will be open to the public. From 2pm Forest & Bird’s Kiwi Conservation Club will be running nature themed activities for families. The exhibition is open to the public again on Sunday from 10am through to 3pm. On Sunday, visitors can participate in a drop in Predator Free workshop and join guided walks along the Sanderson’s Way wetland track. 

Read more about Forest & Bird's year of centennial celebrations

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