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Forest & Bird’s South Canterbury Branch’s commitment to conservation and nature in its region over many years has been honoured with the organisation’s Branch Award. 

The South Canterbury Branch has long advocated for Aotearoa’s native animals, plants and ecosystems in South Canterbury through its work with councils and other organisations, as well as hands-on restoration work at reserves and on other land. 

“Their long-term commitment to biodiversity in their district is really outstanding,” said Nicky Snoyink, Forest & Bird’s Regional Manager for Canterbury and the West Coast. “They have earned a lot of respect at the Timaru District Council, Environment Canterbury and other groups they work with.” 

The branch’s recent crowning achievement was purchasing a rare bush block Arowhenua, near Temuka. The block is believed to be the last remaining lower plains forest left in Canterbury, except for Riccarton Bush in Christchurch.  

Branch member Fraser Ross first started protecting and restoring the Arowhenua bush after it was badly damaged in a storm in 1975. Over the years other Forest & Bird members and locals helped with the work, removing pest plants and propagating and protecting eco-sourced native seedlings. A trap line to remove pest animals has also been put in place. 

The land was part of the privately-owned Arowhenua Station but in 2023, Forest & Bird was able to buy the land, thanks largely to several major local donors, including Fraser. It is planned the bush block will be permanently protected through a Queen Elizabeth II National Trust covenant and work will continue to expand the bush into more open ground. 

Branch committee member Ines Stäger and secretary Joy Sagar said the branch has worked with the Timaru District Council to identify significant natural areas in the region and encouraged private landowners to protect high value areas, such as wetlands, with QEII covenants. 

The branch also has regular working days to protect and restore its Conway’s Bush reserve at Woodbury near Geraldine and members also regularly work at Kakahu Bush, also near Geraldine. 

Advocacy is also a key part of the branch’s work. “There’s a lot of advocacy, a lot of energy goes into writing, making contact with people, and networking,” Ines said. 

Ines has had a long involvement with her partner Peter in protecting and advocating for long-tailed bats, pekapeka-tou-roa, which inhabit the Talbot Forest and the Geraldine Downs. Ines has guided many groups to see the bats, including a group of the branch’s Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC) members this year. 

Ines and Joy say the branch’s KCC is an important way of inspiring a new generation of conservationists. One of the branch’s KCC members, Guy McDonald, later was Forest & Bird’s first Te Kaiārahi Rangatahi o te Taiao Youth Award winner and is now a programme manager for DOC, protecting the threatened southern New Zealand dotterel tūturiwhatu on Rakiura Stewart Island.  

Joy and her husband Paul carry out bird counts each month at Waitarakao/Washdyke Lagoon and other branch members are involved in protecting kororā little penguins at Caroline Bay. 


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.   

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