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Forest & Bird honours announced across New Zealand

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Forest & Bird has announced the winners of the organisation's top honours at its awards dinner this evening. These include:

More information on each award is available below. Photos are available here.
 
Forest & Bird's Old Blue awarded to Warkworth conservationist

Warkworth’s Roger Williams has been awarded one of Forest & Bird’s top awards for his dedication over more than four decades to the organisation and to nature conservation. 

Roger Williams receiving the Old Blue Award

Roger jokes that he never thought a former civil engineer would win a conservation award but those engineering skills have been put to great use since he retired 14 years ago.
 
He has built tracks, boardwalks, an observation tower, bridges, a bird hide and a fish pass. Most recently he designed and led building of an advanced kauri dieback hygiene station to more effectively prevent the spread of the disease.
 
Roger said winning the Old Blue was a total surprise, adding he would not have been able to achieve nearly so much without the help of many other volunteers.

“Individually you can only do so much. All you can do is set a good example and hope that other people and local authorities pick up on it,” he said.
 
Warkworth Area Forest & Bird branch chair Sally Richardson described Roger as a committed and valued member of the branch. He had taken on a large number of practical projects as well as making submissions on many issues, often related to the rapid growth of Warkworth as a satellite town of Auckland.
 
“Roger has worked for the environment in many different spheres over many years,” Sally said.
 
Before moving to Warkworth, the Williams family lived in the Waikato for 39 years. He and wife Patte worked on the development of the Maungatautari sanctuary, where he designed and led the building of the 16-metre-high viewing tower.
 
In Warkworth, Roger has designed and built walkways and cycleways in areas such as the former cement works and Parry Kauri Park. He and Patte have organised and led weed control and planting efforts at many sites in the area.
 
Tāwharanui Regional Park has become a major focus for Roger. He has built walkways in the park, leads a maintenance team and monitors takahē, kiwi and pāteke. “I’ve done most things over the years at Tāwharanui,” he said.
 
Kauri dieback has been a particular focus with the spread of the disease through areas in the north. His hygiene station design at Kauri Park, which requires people to walk through and clean their shoes at the park entrance was a response to the ineffectiveness of other hygiene spray stations.
 
He has also led the building of dry gravelled walkways and boardwalks at Kowhai Park to reduce the chances of the disease spreading.   
 
Roger was presented with his Old Blue at Forest & Bird’s annual conference in Wellington on Saturday (June 23). The Old Blue is awarded annually by New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation to people who have made a significant contribution to Forest & Bird or to the organisation’s conservation goals.
 
The award commemorates the last breeding female black robin which, thanks to work led by pioneering conservationist Don Merton, saved her species from extinction in the 1980s.
 
Hawke’s Bay conservationist wins leading Forest & Bird award 
 
Neil Eagles of Taradale has been awarded Forest & Bird’s prestigious Old Blue award for nearly four decades of service to the Napier branch and Hawke’s Bay’s environment.  

Neil Eagles making his acceptance speech on receiving the Old Blue award at the 2018 Sanderson Dinner

Neil joined Forest & Bird in Gisborne in 1977 and moved to the Napier branch in 1981. He served as branch secretary for several years from 2001 and as chairman between 2008 and 2016.
 
Napier branch Chairman David Belcher said Neil’s leadership ensured Napier was a highly respected Forest & Bird branch, adding he also deserved recognition for his role in a number of Hawke’s Bay environmental forums.
 
Neil said he felt the award reflected not only his own efforts but those of others in the Napier branch as well.
 
“I’m honoured to receive the Old Blue but the achievements were only possible through having a good committee and through the work of a lot of good people,” he said.

“I’ve always tried to do the best I can and I’ve been retired for about 12 years now, so I’ve been able to put more time into the work.”
 
One of Neil’s major commitments has been to the Little Bush Reserve at Puketitiri, northwest of Napier, where he was involved in a pest control programme and committed many hours to weed control, track maintenance and other work. The reserve contains species including kahikatea, matai, rimu, and hinau, among them several trees that are at least 500 years old.
 
He has also organised the branch’s annual tree planting day, started a monthly newsletter to members and spent a lot of time maintaining the branch’s Hartree Lodge at the William Hartree Memorial Scenic Reserve, also in the Puketitiri district.
 
For the last 10 years Neil has been on the Tutira-Maungaharuru Forum, which aims to improve the environment around Lake Tutira, where Forest & Bird has planted trees since 1985.

He has also represented the branch for more than four years on the TANK  (Tutaekuri, Ahuriri, Ngaruroro and Karamu) project, which advises the regional council on managing important Hawke’s Bay waterways.
 
Neil has been keen on conservation since his boyhood living near Otari Wilton’s Bush in Wellington and remains excited about the possibilities for nature in Hawke’s Bay.

“There are a lot of things going on around Hawke’s Bay and there are a lot of people trying to do something to make our environment better,” he said.
 
Neil was presented with his Old Blue at Forest & Bird’s annual conference in Wellington on Saturday (June 23). The Old Blue is awarded annually by New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation to people who have made a significant contribution to Forest & Bird or to the organisation’s conservation goals.
 
The award commemorates the last breeding female black robin which, thanks to work led by pioneering conservationist Don Merton, saved her species from extinction in the 1980s.
 
Long-serving Treasurer awarded Forest & Bird’s highest honour

Graham Bellamy receives a Long Service Award at the 2018 Sanderson Dinner

Forest & Bird has awarded Graham Bellamy its highest honour as a Distinguished Life Member in recognition of his long service to the organisation, including 12 years as Treasurer.

Forest & Bird President Mark Hanger said Graham played a very valuable role for the organisation during a period of rapid growth. 
 
“He has taken the financial management of Forest & Bird to another level. Graham provided a lot more rigour and he’s very considered and professional in his approach,” Mark said.

The role of Treasurer has a relatively low profile but Graham made a big difference to the organisation and sacrificed a lot of his time, a large part of it while he was still working full-time, he added.
 
In 2006 Graham agreed to step in temporarily as Treasurer of Forest & Bird and he worked with the Board and General Manager to strengthen the organisation’s financial controls and reporting.
 
“Here we are 12 years later and I have decided to resign from the “temporary” position,” Graham joked.
 
He said he was surprised to receive the award.
 
“I feel very honoured but I didn’t join the board with the intention of staying for 12 years or in the hope of receiving an award. I feel that I’ve simply done what was required of me as national Treasurer and a member of the Board.”
 
He is happy to be leaving the role this year with strong financial processes in place and with a greater personal appreciation for nature and the work being done to protect it. 
 
“While serving on the Board, I have learned a lot about the importance of conservation work and advocacy and I’ve seen some amazing restoration projects. I’ve met some very dedicated people doing great work for Forest & Bird and for conservation,” he said.
 
Mark Hanger said Graham had also done valuable work for the Upper Hutt branch, which he joined in 1977. He has been chair of the branch since 2016, after joining the committee as branch treasurer in 2005.
 
Not only has he been looking after Forest & Bird’s financial health, he’s been getting his hands dirty at branch projects over the last 14 years. Graham initiated a project to eradicate old man’s beard weed and has been a regular volunteer at the branch’s nursery in recent years.
 
Graham received the award at the Forest & Bird Annual Conference in Wellington on Saturday evening (June 23). He also stepped down as Treasurer at the conference and is looking forward to devoting more time to branch work.
 
He joins a prestigious group as a Forest & Bird Distinguished Life Member, including Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage, botanist Sir Alan Mark, and wildlife photographer and publisher Craig Potton. 

Otago conservationist awarded Forest & Bird’s Old Blue

Graeme Loh receives the Old Blue Award at the 2018 Sanderson Dinner

Otago-based conservationist Graeme Loh has received Forest & Bird’s prestigious Old Blue award in recognition of decades of commitment to the organisation and to protecting New Zealand’s wildlife, plants and landscapes.
 
After his early involvement with the Native Forest Action Council in the 1970s to campaign for ending the logging of native forests, Graeme joined Forest & Bird at the start of the 1980s. He quickly joined the executive (board) where he served for more than a decade as well as on the then Otago branch committee, standing down when his partner Sue Maturin joined the organisation’s staff.
 
“Graeme has had an outstanding four decades of conservation work. He has been a staunch advocate for conservation, and he is a great role model for would-be conservationists,” said Graeme’s nominators Beatrice Lee, former Dunedin branch co-chair, and Mark Hanger, branch chair and Forest & Bird’s President.
 
Graeme said he did not regard receiving the Old Blue as a sign his conservation work is winding down. “Receiving the award is invigorating. It says I’m doing the right thing, so I’ll do more of it,” he said.

“As a young person I learned you could ask for the creation of a national park – it might take 10 years but you would get that reward if you put the work in.

“You didn’t have to be a revolutionary, there was a process which involved some struggle but you could get a result that was acceptable to all members of the community.”

His Forest & Bird volunteering continued alongside a career in the Wildlife Service and later the Department of Conservation.
 
For Forest & Bird he led work to build a boardwalk across saltmarsh at the Tautuku estuary in the Catlins in the and in recent years a daring project to build a predator-proof fence at the top of the St Clair cliffs in Dunedin. This aims to provide protection from predators for the world’s only mainland breeding population of fairy prions, which otherwise only breed on rat-free offshore islands.

He has also been active in efforts to control the spread of wilding conifers in Otago and of boxthorn on limestone cliffs in the Waitaki Valley to protect rare native plants.
 
Graeme remains as passionate as ever about nature and he sees the control of invasive weeds as an important focus for future conservation work.

“That is what I see as the frontier. There’s still an opportunity to stop gorse getting into a new valley, to stop lupins or marram getting onto a new beach and to stop weeds such as buddleia invading our shingle river beds,” he said.
 
Graeme was presented with his Old Blue at Forest & Bird’s annual conference in Wellington on Saturday (June 23). The Old Blue is awarded annually by New Zealand’s largest independent conservation organisation to people who have made a significant contribution to Forest & Bird or to the organisation’s conservation goals.
 
The award commemorates the last breeding female black robin which, thanks to work led by pioneering conservationist Don Merton, saved her species from extinction in the 1980s.

Nelson Tasman wins Forest & Bird Branch Award

Nelson Tasman Branch members receive the 2018 Branch Award at the Sanderson Dinner

Nelson Tasman has won Forest & Bird’s Branch Award this year in recognition of its achievements as one of the organisation’s most active branches in restoration projects, raising community awareness and giving a voice to nature in resource management hearings.
 
“Nelson Tasman branch has been a very active branch for many years, supported by a proactive committee,” said Forest & Bird’s Top of the South Regional Manager, Debs Martin.

“They are always open to new ideas, ready to innovate and draw on a wealth of people and knowledge within the local membership.”  
 
Nelson Tasman branch chairman Julie McLintock agreed, saying the branch has always been able to draw on a group of committed volunteers to carry out restoration work, make submissions and to campaign on behalf of nature.
 
“We have a great committee and there are also a lot of people outside the committee who do marvellous work for us and that’s one of the strengths of our branch,” Julie said.
 
Over the last year the branch completed the initial stage of the Paremata Flats restoration, near Cable Bay, with more than 300 people on the project’s volunteer list. Under the leadership of Ian Price, well over 80,000 trees have been planted since 2011 in the initial stage with plans for second generation planting and ongoing predator and weed control.
 
The branch has also undertaken a joint project with the Nelson City Council to tackle wilding conifers and other weeds in the Dun Mountain area, which has rare ultramafic soils with a high mineral content and is home to rare native plants.
 
The review of the Nelson Biodiversity Strategy has also been a focus for the branch as well as submissions on the Regional Pest Management Plan and resource consents. Nelson Tasman members have also been helping coordinate volunteers and working at the Bat Recovery Project at Pelorus Bridge.
 
Promoting conservation to the wider community through public events has been a strength of the branch. Regular meetings with high profile speakers often attract more than 50 branch members and interested members of the public.
 
Nelson Tasman also hosted Forest & Bird’s annual South Island gathering in Murchison last year.
 
Last year the branch began awarding the annual Andy Dennis Forest & Bird Memorial Scholarship for trainee conservation rangers at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology. The scholarship commemorates the prominent Nelson-based conservationist who died in 2016.
 
The Forest & Bird Branch Award recognises outstanding achievement by a branch in work which can include restoration and projects, advocacy and submissions to local government, and running the Kiwi Conservation Clubs for children.
 
Forest & Bird awards youthful conservation leader
 
Wellington teenager George Hobson hopes to use the Forest & Bird’s Te Kaiārahi Rangatahi o te Taiao youth award as a springboard for drawing more young people into conservation.

“It’s very exciting. I think the award will definitely set me up for the work I want to do in the future and build up additional credibility so I can encourage more young people to become involved in conservation,” George said.

George Hobson receives the Youth Award at the 2018 Sanderson Dinner

Kate Graeme, George Hobson and Mark Hanger.

The 14-year-old has already encouraged many other young people to love nature through his growing involvement in conservation organisations over the last three to four years. His infectious enthusiasm, articulate advocacy, and organisational skills are very persuasive.
 
Darren van Hoof, until recently the lead ranger for education and youth at Zealandia sanctuary in Wellington, nominated George for the award, saying he had a special gift for empowering others to achieve conservation goals.
 
“He has drive and enthusiasm in abundance, qualities which he has used to great effect when collaborating with different conservation organisations to facilitate youth involvement,” Darren said.
 
Earlier this year George organised a trip for six Zealandia youth ambassadors and three staff to Rotorua. He arranged visits to several conservation and cultural organisations, including Rotorua Canopy Tours, the Kaharoa Kōkako Trust, the Te Puia geothermal area and Māori cultural centre and the Turangi National Trout Centre to see young whio, or blue ducks, being prepared for release into the wild.
 
George’s first involvement with conservation started nearly four years ago when he became a youth ambassador at Zealandia. There he developed guiding skills and an ability to communicate his passion for nature to children and adults while taking tours and visiting schools.
 
“When I’ve taken school groups around the valley and their eyes light up when they see a takahē, I realise it’s an amazing opportunity to be able to show other people the wildlife we have in New Zealand and to see them become enthusiastic about conservation.”
 
He has since become coordinator of Young Birders New Zealand and been campaign manager for the banded dotterel in Forest & Bird’s last three Bird of the Year competitions. He also monitors his favourite bird at Eastbourne near Wellington.
 
“Banded dotterels are very cute, quirky little birds that have been very under-represented in the general public’s consciousness. What most people don’t know is that their population is decreasing at an alarming rate,” George said.
 
Photography is another of George’s passions and recently he was appointed official photographer of the Wellington Forest & Bird Youth Council. He loves to take wildlife photos whenever his hectic schedule allows.  
 
Forest & Bird’s youth award is awarded annually to recognise and encourage New Zealand’s future conservation leaders.

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