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Conservation Week Wellington Awards Announced

Monday 13 August 2001

Speech Notes - Hon S Lee

Conservation Week Wellington Awards Announced

· Kia ora hui hui tatou katoa

· This year's Conservation Week theme, 'Unique New Zealand - Aotearoa Te Whenua Ahurei', focuses on New Zealand's unique natural and cultural heritage and the many caretakers who help look after it.

· New Zealands plants and animals have developed over 80 million years of splendid isolation surrounded by the ocean and seas. In the recent Bio-diversity Strategy, scientists noted that the evolution of plants and animals in New Zealand has given us a flora and fauna so distinctive that it has been described as the closest scientists can get to studying life from another planet.

Unusually high numbers of endemic species of flora and fauna are found here. New Zealand's fauna is said to represent the "Age of Birds"; birds such as the Kakapo, kiwi and kokako. There is also a unique assemblage of endemic plants, such as the divaricating species Muehlenbeckia astonii found only in a few localities, including Wellington.

· While many of the issues facing our biodiversity are specific to the rapid clearance of habitat, and the introduction of mammalian predators, I am struck by the parallels to the issues faced by other island nations. The ground-breaking methods developed in New Zealand to radio-track animals, and to eradicate pests, are contributing to global efforts to protect our planet.

· DOC is funded to undertake the core conservation work in New Zealand. With last year's increased funding of 187 million over the next 5 years to implement the Biodiversity Strategy, and community awareness funding of 2.5 million as a permanent increase this year, the Department of Conservation has been able to provide increased support and input to existing programmes. It has also been able to work more closely with the many agencies, organisations and community groups who work to take care of our precious biodiversity. To succeed in meeting the conservation challenge facing us we need to develop ways of best working as a conservation community.

· The Wellington Restoration Network seeded through the Conservation Awareness funding within the Department of Conservation, and huge assistance from the Wellington Regional Council and others, is a great example. The community of experts and active conservationists is working to share its knowledge and to learn new skills and techniques. By taking local action on issues, you are building the successes that will see us win with the global-scale problems.

· This years theme for Conservation Week is particularly relevant in the International Year of the Volunteer. Volunteering has become a unique part of New Zealand way of life and it is the volunteers who have become the "many caretakers" of local places in our region. Our Volunteers make a significant and long-term contribution to conserving, protecting and restoring many unique natural areas of New Zealand.

· We are here tonight to recognise and honour some of those who have made a particularly significant contribution. These are people who have 'vision', commitment and who have contributed for as long as 30 years to conserving and restoring areas of the Wellington Region.

· There have been a large number of award nominees this year, 27 in total, with 10 'live' nominations from last year - making a total of 37 nominations for judges to evaluate. Again it has been a very difficult decision. Due to the high standard of many of the nominations, we have chosen to present 10 tile awards and 5 special certificates of merit.

We would like to recognise the following groups and individuals who have made a highly commendable contribution to conservation

(Presentation of certificates by the Conservation Board)

They are:

Raymond Matthews for voluntary land protection work on Waiorongomai Station, Lake Wairarapa, setting high standards for mixed farm and conservation management.

Don Peat for his long-term commitment to volunteer work with Nga Manu Trust

The Mount Bruce Volunteers for dedicated volunteer commitment to the diverse work of the Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.

The Eastbourne Forest Rangers for their 70 years of commitment to caretaking for the 'northern forest block' and visitors to the area.

Upper Hutt Forest and Bird for their ongoing commitment and hard work to the restoration of bush remnants of the Hutt Valley.

(Presentation of tile awards)

· It is now my pleasure to announce the individuals and groups, the Wellington Conservation Board and DOC panel considered to have demonstrated a long term, sustained outstanding contribution to the conservation of Unique Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Five awards are being given tonight to recognise the contribution of individuals and groups within the volunteer category.

The first being awarded goes to two individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to conservation independently and while working together. Over the many years they have worked tirelessly with the Botanical Society - holding committee positions, leading many botanical trips to the hinterland, writing hundreds of submissions advocating plant conservation. Together they have undertaken vegetation surveys throughout the region, accounting for 129 plant check lists which they have co-authored.

Please congratulate Barbara Mitcalfe, an expert botanist whose voluntary work with the Botanical Society, Department of Conservation and Wellington Regional Council has been outstanding in the preservation of our unique botanical flora. Also Chris Horne, who has contributed hundreds of hours over the years preparing the Wellington Botanical Society Newsletter (published 3 times per year).

Their combined energy and drive has been an inspiration to many people who are involved in conservation in the region.

The next winner in the volunteer category has been involved in conservation for over 30 years. He has made an outstanding contribution towards conservation, as a youth, a teacher/principal and especially as a retiree.

In 1981 he joined a planting group on Matiu/Somes Island and has continued to work fortnightly on the Island since then, with Lower Hutt Forest and Bird. He also works fortnightly at Pauatahanui Inlet with Forest and Bird members. He is a Trust Board Member and also a member of the Executive of Bushy Park contributing 4-5 days per month. Please congratulate Stan Butcher, a man who has made a long-term commitment to restoration and through his environmental education with the Hutt City Council on environmental education projects and work with Department of Conservation on community awareness projects.

· Retirement to the following person has been described as "knocking off work to carry bricks" by one of the two nominations received for him. Since retiring he has spent much of his time working as a conservation volunteer on at least 7 projects long term. Much of that time is spent on the unglamorous but vital role of pest eradication. Other major tasks include tree planting, attending to seedlings and battling for the environment on various conservation committees. Please congratulate Bill Milne for his sustained dedication to a wide range of conservation projects in the Hutt Valley.

· A strong vision by the initiator and co-ordinator has seen great work achieved by this next dedicated and enthusiastic group of people. The long-term vision is to see a restored eco-system representative of all species including major canopy trees. To achieve this, native plants and trees including rare and endangered species seeds are locally sourced. These are then propagated and grown on by the 20 local home nurseries in the scheme, for projects such as Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, Manawa Karioi and Makara Peak.

In the 10 years of operation from Gary's home, 70 species have been propagated, producing some 70 000 plants. Please congratulate Gary James and the Wellington Home Nursery Scheme for their long-term commitment and vision to restoring a diverse forest canopy in and around Wellington City.

· After a massive clean up of the site, the Karori Lions Club opened tunnels at Wrights Hill Fortress to thousands of visitors. In 1992 the Wrights Hill Fortress group was formed with the primary objective being to "restore and preserve the Wrights Hill Fortress as a historical monument for the benefit of the community"

The group has evolved to a small and dedicated unit of approximately 30 people, who, over the last 8 years have volunteered many hours in the research and restoration of the site. In 1997 a Conservation Plan for the site was completed providing the society with a professional guideline to complete remedial and ongoing maintenance. Please congratulate the Wrights Hill Fortress Restoration Society for working towards their 'vision' of the restoration and preservation of Wrights Hill Fortress as a historical monument.

· The following group is an outstanding winner of the Marine/Coastal category. This organisation founded in1994 has cared for and protected over 3700 wild birds which inhabit the coastal edges of Wellington Harbour. The birds that arrive at the foundations' wild bird hospital are brought in by DOC staff, the general public, SPCA and veterinary clinics. They are then cared for by a group of dedicated volunteers. The annual length of stay at the hospital is 2.5 months with an average of a 70% release back into the wild. Without their commitment many seabirds, Little Blue Penguins and other native birds unique to New Zealand, would not have survived. They have established a penguin sanctuary at Days Bay which is maintained by an active group of volunteers They have also been involved in environmental education producing 3 kits on environmental issues and providing task/project based activities to promote understanding of the environment.

Please congratulate the Little Blue Penguin Foundation for an outstanding contribution to wildlife rehabilitation and the protection of Wellingtons' little Blue Penguin population.

· In the recreation category we would like to recognise 2 nominees. The group winner in this category has taken an innovative approach to conservation on a very tricky site. They have managed to harness an enthusiasm for mountain biking with the restoration of the Makara Peak Mountain Park.

The Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park Supporters, led by the Kennett Brothers and Andrew Hollings have killed over 400 goats, worked on possum eradication and planted over 8000 trees. They have also completed kilometres of dual use walking and biking tracks in the Park. Recently they have been working to restore the margins of Karori Stream as part of the Wellington Regional Council's Community Environmental Care Programme.

The initiators have set a standard for working with volunteers in the supporters group, who remain involved and committed to restoring the park. Their ability to secure and maintain a variety of funding sources and their willingness to share methods has been a motivator for other community groups. Many were able to hear Jonathon Kennett speak at the recent Restoration Day organised by DOC and the Wellington Regional Council at Tapu Te Ranga marae.

Please congratulate Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park Supporters for restoring the Makara Peak Mountain Bike Park and encouraging environmentally responsible recreation.

· The individual winner of the Recreation Category has been involved in considerable volunteer work on the construction of new walkways and upgrading of others at Otari-Wilton Bush Reserve and the Karori Sanctuary. The work has led to improved access and safety to selected areas in both of the reserves. The work has been ongoing and the recipient has brought a wide range of existing track building skills, knowledge and expertise to the job. He has been a dedicated volunteer working 3 half days per week to complete the work at Otari-Wilton Bush and currently working on the Karori Sanctuary Tracks. Please congratulate Grant Preston-Thomas for applying expertise and making a 'hands on' contribution to public tracks in Otari-Wilton Bush and Karori Sanctuary.

· The last award category is "Kaitiakitanga". MIRO (Mainland Island Operation Restoration Operation) is a group of volunteers with a grand vision for their patch of bush between Eastbourne and Wainuiomata. Their vision is to see the bush area free of animal and plant pests - to allow the bush and bird life to revert to something like its pre-European beauty and restore the dawn chorus.

MIRO was established in 1998 out of Possum Busters, a successful initiative by the Hutt City Council. The group have been working to protect significant stands of Northern Rata - a rata health survey was initiated by the group and a deer enclosure built so that the effect of deer browsing could be assessed. This work has been done with the assistance of the Regional Council who have designated the area a Key Native Ecosystem, and Hutt City Council. MIRO volunteers are also carrying out a 3 year bird count at 30 sites. Public education is taking place, with a 'shop window' at the entrance of Muritai Park track to show the results of protecting trees against possum damage.

The achievements of MIRO in its 3 years of operation are considerable. As part of MIRO's focus on this bush other bodies are now re-evaluating the importance of this forest area. Please congratulate MIRO for their guardianship of the bush area between Eastbourne and Wainuiomata and for their hard work and perseverance to achieving their vision.

· We also have an individual winner of the Kaitiakitanga category. This nominee was nominated in 2000 by Kapakapanui and again this year by the Parawai Tramping club. She has shown outstanding commitment to the environment on the Kapiti Coast across a wide breadth of areas, and has served on the Wellington Conservation Board.

As part of KEA (Kapiti Environmental Association) she has been successful in Environmental Court appeals against inappropriate subdivision development. She has participated in the development of the district plan, worked to develop an urban walkway and protected remnant forest and natural coastal ecosystems such as the escarpment and Queen Elizabeth Park. She is also worked tirelessly with the Parawai tramping club.

June Rowland is a collaborative worker, working closely with other groups including iwi representatives, and helping to educate the public on stewardship issues. Please congratulate June Rowland of KEA for her determination and outstanding dedication to the protection of special landscapes, wetlands and forest remnants of the Kapiti Coast.

(Those who have received awards may wish to say a few works at this stage)

· It has been a pleasure this evening to be able to acknowledge the work of so many people. In this "International Year of the Volunteer" it is wonderful to to highlight the 'visions', the planning, sweat and "walking the talk" of so many from the Wellington Conservation community.

I wish you all success with the work you are involved in as part of the Wellington conservancy conservation networks. I take heart from the work I have spoken about tonight, that conservation in the Wellington conservancy is in firm, capable and nurturing hands.

(END OF PRESENTATION)


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