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Forest & Bird’s Southland branch has been honoured with the organisation’s Branch Award in recognition of its outstanding restoration and advocacy work over many years to protect nature in one of New Zealand’s most extensive and diverse regions.

“The Southland branch is active on a number of fronts and full of wonderful welcoming people dedicated to conservation,” says Forest & Bird’s Otago and Southland regional manager Rick Zwaan.

The Southland branch’s area extends from Fiordland in the west, Stewart Island to the south and the Catlins to the east as well as large intensively farmed areas.

One of the branch’s major projects is more than two decades of protection and restoration work at the Te Rere hoiho/yellow eyed penguin reserve in the Catlins.

Another long term Catlins commitment has been restoration at Forest & Bird’s Lenz Reserve and surrounding Tautuku area in collaboration with the South Otago and Dunedin branches.

The branch also maintains a strong presence in the Southland community with regular events, attending hearings and submitting on proposals that affect nature. The branch has a strong Kiwi Conservation Club (KCC) for children, and is the driving force behind Invercargill’s Spring Eco Fest.

Branch chair Duncan Blair said the award, which recognises outstanding work to protect and restore nature and engaging the local community in conservation issues, was a tribute to the ongoing commitment of members.
 
“They’re a very dedicated team of people, they all really care about each other and their individual successes as well as the vision of Forest & Bird,” Duncan said.

“I think the award is a really good recognition for us and will hopefully raise the profile of the branch here.”

As well as the experience of a core of long-term members, the branch is attracting new recruits, partly through links with the Southern Institute of Technology. Duncan said work was underway to set up a youth hub for young conservationists in Otago and Southland.

Former chair and branch member for over 45 years, Chris Henderson, said one of the strengths of the branch was the connections members formed with other conservation organisations and causes in the region over a long period.

“Our members are such good people to be around. It’s just a joy to support them in any way you can and know they’ll do the same for you. We have the same concerns and aspirations,” Chris said.

Duncan said the future of the branch looked bright and there were plenty of issues for Forest & Bird to tackle.

“There’s a lot of precious flora and fauna which I think many people down here take for granted a bit. That’s something we want to make a focus, along with climate change issues, including opposing any plans for new coal or lignite mines,” he said.

Captions (Photos in Dropbox folder)

Southland Branch 1
Fergus Sutherland (left) leading a work day at the Te Rere hoiho/yellow eyed penguin reserve managed by Forest & Bird’s Southland branch. Photo: Chris Rance.

Southland Branch 2
The Forest & Bird stall at the Invercargill Spring Eco Fest. The Southland branch plays a leading role in organising the Eco Fest. Photo: Jenny Campbell.    

Southland Branch 3
Hoiho/yellow-eyed penguins at the Southland branch’s Te Rere Reserve. Photo: Fergus Sutherland.

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