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Richard Hursthouse of Auckland’s North Shore has received Forest & Bird’s prestigious Old Blue award for three decades leading and initiating conservation projects in the city and at national level. 

Richard has had a major impact on conservation on the North Shore and more widely in Auckland. Nationally, his work included four years on Forest & Bird’s Board from 2019.  

He also led the establishment of EcoNet, a charitable trust set up to develop technology to help conservation groups throughout Aotearoa achieve better results and make administration easier. 

Former North Shore Branch chair Claire Stevens said Richard often worked behind the scenes, initiating projects, connecting people and championing new and better ways of doing things.  

“He definitely deserves and Old Blue for all his hard mahi in conservation and advancing Forest & Bird’s local, regional and national objectives over decades,” Claire said. 

Richard said he was very results-focussed. “I don’t like injustice and I don’t like it when the environment is going backwards because people don’t know or don’t care. 

“A big driver of these conservation networks I’ve been working on is to get people to understand what’s going on out there, with the environment, pest plants, water, and predators and so on,” he said. 

A lifelong lover of nature, Richard first became actively involved in restoration with the Campbells Bay School Community Forest on the North Shore in the mid-1990s. He took over as chair of the Centennial Park Bush Society in 2003, a position he still holds. 

In 2007 he joined Forest & Bird’s North Shore branch committee, which he later chaired for eight years. Soon after joining the committee, he proposed and led the expansion of the branch’s Millenium Forest restoration project at Tuff Crater at Northcote to restore the entire crater reserve, removing pest plants and animals and planting native species. 

“It's a massive transformation. If you look at what it was 15 years ago, parts of it were 90% pest plants. Now they’re less than 5%,” he said. 

The number of new projects and networks he has initiated or played a key role in has since blossomed. These include establishing meetings of Forest & Bird’s Auckland regional chairs, and establishing EcoNet, Restore Hibiscus & Bays, and Pest Free Kaipātiki in the Kaipātiki local board area.  

He also played a role in setting up other Auckland local board restoration groups. “Establishing these networks mean we now have five networks across the North Shore which collectively have between 20 and 30 staff and dozens, if not hundreds of volunteers.”   

Richard was presented with the Old Blue at Forest & Bird’s annual AGM on Saturday (June 22). The Old Blue is awarded by New Zealand’s leading independent conservation organisation to people who have made an outstanding contribution to Forest & Bird or the organisation’s conservation goals. 

The award commemorates the last breeding female black robin, karure or kakaruia, which thanks to work led by pioneering conservationist Don Merton, saved her species from extinction in the 1980s. 


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.  

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