Three dedicated conservationists have won Forest & Bird Tī Kōuka awards for making a significant contribution to regional conservation over a long period.
Hawke’s Bay farmer David Belcher has been awarded Forest & Bird’s Tī Kōuka award for his outstanding service of nearly 60 years to the Hastings-Havelock North and Napier Branches and to conservation in the region.
David joined Forest & Bird as a 20 year old in 1966 and later used his farming skills to improve pest control and infrastructure at the Society’s Blowhard Bush and Little Bush reserves, as well as playing a leading role in many other regional conservation projects.
David also served as Napier Branch chair for seven years before standing down earlier this year. He will remain involved in looking after Little Bush.
Nominating David for the award, Neil Eagles and Liz Carter said: “David Belcher has been one of Forest & Bird’s longest-serving active volunteers. He was a Trustee at the Guthrie Smith Arboretum, Tutira, for six years and more recently worked with the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council to coordinate branch planting at Waitangi Regional Park and Lake Tutira.”
Lifelong conservation volunteer Helen Hills has provided outstanding service to Forest &
Bird’s North Canterbury Branch and many conservation projects in the Christchurch area.
She served on the branch committee for seven years and co-led branch projects at Mahoe-nui, the Port Hills, and Boyle Base in the Lewis Pass area.
Helen also volunteers at the Sanctuary Reserve at Waimakariri, at Forest & Bird’s Calder Green Reserve, in Christchurch, and at a local penguin colony. She also volunteers for the Summit Road Society and the Quail Island Ecological Restoration Trust.
North Canterbury Branch Secretary Frances Wall paid tribute to Helen’s impressive work ethic, saying: “From early days helping with KCC, to raising thousands of native seedlings in her own back garden to donate, and serving on our branch committee since early 2016 with effective problem-solving and practical skills, Helen is the epitome of a true conservationist.”
Native plant champion Meg Collins, of Ōpōtiki, has given outstanding service to the Eastern Bay of Plenty Branch over three decades, including establishing and running its native plant nursery for six years and serving as branch chair four years.
Meg led many branch projects, often together with husband Mike, including a Bring Back the Birds project protecting shorebirds in and around Ōhiwa Harbour. She also advocated for nature during two terms on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
In 2018, Meg created a rare coastal plant collection at Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park/Ōhiwa Domain, with a special focus on endangered plants from the Eastern Bay of Plenty.
Nominating Meg, Ann and Basil Graeme said: “For 30 years or so, Meg has been an active Forest & Bird member and a staunch supporter of conservation in the Eastern Bay of Plenty. Meg created and maintains a native garden in Onekawa Te Mawhai Regional Park, which has become much visited local highlight.”
A version of this story was first published in the Summer 2023 issue of Forest & Bird magazine.