Thank you for helping celebrate a century of conservation mahi together! Here we feature some favourite moments from our centennial year so far, including a number of “firsts”.
A colony of pekapeka long-tailed bats was discovered in the Rai Valley, Marlborough, bringing new hope for this rarely seen endemic species. They were found in bush north of Forest & Bird’s Te Hoiere Bat Recovery Project, an area that has been the subject of restoration plantings by our Nelson Tasman and Marborough Branches. Volunteers started carrying out predator control to protect the newly found roosts from a local rat population caught eyeing one of the breeding sites. Forest & Bird acknowledges many individuals and organisations, including Te Hoiere Project, Kotahitanga mō te Taiao Alliance, Ngāti Kuia, and Marlborough District Council for their continuing support for pekapeka protection at Pelorus.
Forest & Bird’s South Canterbury Branch saved an important stand of indigenous bush – the last remnant of tall forest left on the lower plains – and the land became the Society’s first reserve since 2006. Branch members Fraser Ross and Robert Birks made significant gifts towards the nearly $400,000 total needed to buy the land and secure it for future generations. Fraser, 89, has been looking after Arowhenua Bush since 1977, a half-century labour of love supported by his branch, former landowners the Lyon family, and Arowhenua Station’s new owners the Bowman family. South Canterbury Branch is working with the national office to create a management plan for the reserve. In October, the branch helped organise an exhibition at South Canterbury Musuem celebrating the 60+ years the branch has spent protecting nature in the region.
Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle unleashed devastation in Auckland, Hawke’s Bay, the East Cape, and Coromandel in January and February. It was a disaster waiting to happen, as Forest & Bird’s field officer Basil Graeme warned back in 1990, when he visited the Tairāwhiti Gisborne region following 1988’s Cyclone Bola. He later wrote in this magazine: “Today the East Cape waits exposed and unprepared for the next cyclone.” That came to pass four decades later with two ex-tropical cyclones hitting a month apart. Forest & Bird’s freshwater advocate Tom Kay immediately started touring the country, giving presentations to councils and at local events, many organised by our branches. Our regional conservation managers joined Tom in their regions, and they explained how nature-based solutions, set out in our Making Room for Rivers, Every Wetland Counts, and Four Forests for Climate campaigns, can be deployed to protect communities from future extreme weather events. By November, Tom had presented to 39 groups, including 11 councils. Auckland Council subsequently moved to prioritise nature-based solutions through its Making Space for Water plan. Forest & Bird also lobbied the government, including presenting at the Environment Committee, to adopt nature-first policies and address barriers, including funding, that are stopping councils implementing these kinds of solutions.
WORLD WETLANDS DAY
Forest & Bird commissioned new research and published a report revealing thousands of drained wetlands on public land could be brought back to life. In our Every Wetland Counts campaign, we have been showing it is possible to rewet swamps that have been drained for pasture and how healthy wetlands can protect communities from the climate impacts, such as rising sea levels, while providing healthy habitat for freshwater native species, including birds, fish, and insects. Wetlands are hard-working climate wonders filtering and replenishing water supply, storing carbon, blunting the impacts of floods and storms, boosting eco-tourism, and enhancing wellbeing.
FORCE OF NATURE CONCERT
Our Centennial year kicked off with a sold-out Force of Nature concert premiere at the Auckland Arts Festival. Inspired by Forest & Bird’s conservation work, eight New Zealand composers created original chamber music works and took the audience on a poignant journey through our fragile natural world, from majestic, braided rivers and soaring Antipodean albatross to the tiny creatures inhabiting a forest floor, while paying tribute to kaitiaki conservation volunteers looking after native habitats all over the country. The concert received great reviews from the public and critics alike. It was followed by performances in Wanaka, Christchurch, and Nelson.
BIG BIRTHDAY BASHES
Hundreds of supporters joined us to celebrate Forest & Bird’s 100th birthday in three stunning landscapes of significance to the Society – Bushy Park Tarapuruhi, near Whanganui, Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve, Marlborough, and our Lenz Reserve, in the Catlins. Several branches also organised local birthday events, including Golden Bay, North Canterbury, West Coast, and Manawatū. There were family-friendly conservation activities, a birthday cake competition, and lots of trips down memory lane during the popular events. A huge thank you to everyone, branches, volunteers, and staff who helped organise all of these events.
Statistics NZ revealed that more than 75% indigenous reptile, bird, bat, and freshwater fish species groups are currently threatened with extinction or are at risk of becoming threatened. In the aftermath of Statistics NZ’s sobering environmental indicators report, chief executive Nicola Toki called for a whole-of-government approach to prevent Aotearoa becoming the extinction capital of the world.
FOREST & BIRD STAMPS
Marking our 100th birthday, Forest & Bird’s centennial stamp series, featuring Rachel Walker’s vibrant designs, proved hugely popular with the public and stamp collectors alike. The four stamps feature Kāpiti Island’s forest birds; the Tautuku gecko, southern rātā, and freshwater fishes of the Catlins; a tāiko black petrel, kauri forest, and the southern right whale of the Waitākere Ranges; and the pepe forest ringlet butterfly, Avatar moth, and rare coal measure ecosystem of the West Coast. Together, they represent the people fighting for our forests, freshwater, oceans, and climate. NZ Post commissioned the stamps and created a set of collectables, including greetings cards, postcards, prints, and tea towels.
NO NEW MINES
Forest & Bird’s legal team clocked up another win for Te Kuha, on the West Coast, the latest in a six-year campaign. Without our mahi, an open-cast coal mine on this pristine roadless wilderness would likely be consented by now, said Forest & Bird’s legal counsel Peter Anderson after the Environment Court ruled resource consents should not be granted for a mine on Te Kuha escarpment overlooking Westport. At the time of writing, Te Kuha has
been appealed to the High Court by Stevenson Mining. Meanwhile, Forest & Bird’s campaign to stop mining on conservation land continued. In April, staff travelled to Northland to support Whangaroa hapū members protesting two mineral mining applications on public conservation and Māori-owned land, including at Manginangina Scenic Reserve, Puketī Forest, among the last 1% of unlogged kauri forest in Aotearoa.
Kāpiti Mana branch, the local community, and Forest & Bird staff organised a joint tribute to Forest & Bird’s founder and first volunteer Ernest “Val” Sanderson. It took place over two days in Paekākāriki, Kāpiti Coast, where he lived for 20 years while leading the Society. A sign paying tribute to Sanderson’s life and legacy was unveiled in the Waikākāriki Wetland, next to the railway line. The wetland is being restored by local conservation group Ngā Uruoa, and its leader Paul Callister organised for the main path through the wetland – part of Te Araroa national trail – to be renamed Sanderson’s Way. It was wonderful to see more than a dozen members of Sanderson’s family, as well as mana whenua and local dignitaries, at the event, which included an Inspired by Sanderson exhibition, birthday cake, and speeches by Sanderson’s grandson Justin Jordan, branch chair Pene Burton-Bell, and Nicola Toki, who said: “Sanderson and his legacy prove we can make a difference for our wild places and wildlife – especially when we come together.”
Titipounamu settled into their new home at Forest & Bird’s Tarapuruhi Bushy Park Sanctuary, near Whanganui, this month, following a landmark hapu-tohapu translocation at the end of April. A total of 60 titipounamu, an ancient species of wren only found in Aotearoa, were released in the sanctuary, which is protected by a predator-free fence. The sanctuary is a partnership between Forest & Bird, the Bushy Park Trust, and members of local iwi Ngaa Rauru, including Tamahereroto, Ngāti Pukeko, and Ngāti Maika hapū. The hapū-to-hapū translocation – a first for Bushy Park – took place thanks to the generosity of Taranaki Maunga hapū, who gifted the birds to Bushy Park and gave each one a name.
Forest & Bird and Fish Forever are thrilled three areas of the Northland coast will be protected as a result of an Environment Court decision. Two areas around Mimiwhangata peninsula, in the Bay of Islands, will be acknowledged as rāhui tapu and fishing will be prohibited. A third area, around Rākaumangamanga Cape Brett, will have a bottom trawling and purse seining ban. The newly protected areas were signed off by the Conservation Minister in October. It comes after Forest & Bird’s legal team and Fish Forever worked with kaumātua of Ngāti Kuta and Te Uri o Hikihiki to appeal the Northland Regional Council’s Regional Plan for Northland, which did not include fishing controls. They used legal precedents established in the Bay of Plenty by the Motiti Rohe Moana Trust that ruled regional councils can protect significant native biodiversity in the sea out to 12 nautical miles.
Forest & Bird, together with Oxfam Aotearoa and Greenpeace Aotearoa, launched Climate Shift: A 10-point plan for action. It called on Ministers, MPs, and political parties to take action and urgently address the climate crisis. If implemented, this plan would result in real emissions reductions, support frontline communities, and restore and rewild nature. The campaign is supported by 36 other climate, social justice, and environmental groups, and more than 16,000 New Zealanders signed the Climate Shift petition. Forest & Bird wants to see nature-based solutions at the heart of Aotearoa’s climate response, with policies to control browsing mammals, promote native reforestation, provide for ecosystem-managed fisheries, and double the area of wetlands.
WOMEN IN CONSERVATION
Our Winter issue profiled six heroines in our society’s history – Perrine Moncrieff, Amy Hodgson Elizabeth Gilmer, Violet Rucroft, Lily Daff, and Audrey Eagle. The profiles were based on research carried out by Masters student Tess Tuxford, of Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, who received a Forest & Bird history scholarship and was given access to our archives. She showed how these six women engaged with conservation through science, politics, education, and the arts, overcoming barriers to become leaders in their respective fields. Forest & Bird is working with the National Library of New Zealand to host an International Women’s Day event next March celebrating women’s voices in conservation past and present. A series of educational workshops will support young women aged 14–25 years to become conservation leaders of the future.
Our first in-person conference since 2019 was an invigorating call to action, a celebration of the remarkable achievements of Forest & Bird to date, and a chance to plan for the next 100 years of conservation mahi. Its theme “Inspiring bold leadership in a time of crisis” brought iwi leaders, industry executives, academics, journalists, and young environmental kaitiaki to the stage to debate the issues and answer questions from the audience. President Mark Hanger kicked off proceedings with an illustrated presentation of Forest Bird’s wins over the past century, setting the scene for an uplifting day of kōrero, debate, and challenging ideas. Chief executive Nicola Toki gave a keynote address calling for transformative thinking, including prioritising nature-based solutions to create a better world for our tamariki. Conference MC Jesse Mulligan chaired a series of engaging panel discussions, including the future of conservation, the role of big business and farming in the climate crisis, and why iwi and young people should be at the heart of all environmental decision-making.
Forest & Bird’s conservation award winners of 2023 were celebrated during a sold-out Sanderson Dinner, with Dame Anne Salmond giving the keynote address. The following day, Nicola Toki planted a tōtara to mark Forest & Bird’s 100th anniversary at Wellington Branch’s Tanera Gully restoration project in the heart of the capital. Another conference weekend highlight was Elisabeth Easther performing her one-woman show A Rare Bird, a tribute to the pioneering conservationist and Forest & Bird founder member Perrine Moncrieff. Delegates also enjoyed Feathers and Foliage – an exhibition of nature-inspired art organised by the Wellington Branch to mark Forest & Bird’s centennial. In June, we launched a search for Aotearoa New Zealand’s unsung conservation heroes, with nominees receiving a certificate of appreciation of their work to protect te taiao. Nominations remain open until February 2024, and anyone can take part.
LOVE THE GULF
Forest & Bird has spent more than a decade campaigning for the Hauraki Gulf to be protected. In a historic move, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins announced his government would legislate for 19 new marine protection areas and introduce a Hauraki Gulf Fisheries Plan to reduce the impact of fishing. The Hauraki Gulf Tīkapa Moana Marine Protection Bill passed its first reading in August but will need the support of the new government to become law. Last December, Forest & Bird launched the Arohatia Tīkapa Moana Love the Gulf campaign, led by Bianca Ranson. As a Waiheke Island resident, Bianca has witnessed the Gulf’s ecological decline firsthand and is determined to help preserve it for generations to come. Together with our Hauraki Gulf Alliance partners, Bianca handed over a 36,589-signature petition to end bottom trawling to Minister for Oceans and Fisheries Rachel Brooking in June. The signatures had been gathered by Forest & Bird, Greenpeace, Legasea, and WWF New Zealand.
A historic Forest & Bird legal win in the Court of Appeal sent a clear message that the government must put sustainability before commercial interests when deciding fisheries catch limits. In 2019, Forest & Bird’s legal team sought a judicial review of Minister of Fisheries Stuart Nash’s decision regarding East Coast tarakihi catch limits. The Minister said the stock should be rebuilt over 10 years but extended this to 20 after industry lobbying. He also decided to reduce the catch limit by about 10%, although Forest & Bird believed a much larger cut was needed for a sustainable fishery. Two years later, the High Court found the Minister had made an error of law. This decision was appealed to the Court of Appeal, and Forest & Bird won that case too, with the Court upholding the original decision. At the time of writing, fishing interests had sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
26 FOREST & BIRD CENTENNIAL
We launched this creative conservation project to highlight the importance of conservation volunteers in restoring nature. Forest & Bird worked with 26 New Zealand writers and artists who were randomly paired up and asked to visit 13 of our 120+ branch-led conservation projects around the country. The artists created original artworks inspired by the landscape, people, species, and conservation challenges encountered during their visits. Writers were tasked with creating a centena poem of exactly 100 words that had to start and finish with the same three words. They wrote an accompanying 260-word essay reflecting on their experience. The writing and artworks are being published in three stages in this magazine and online, with the final four being released in February 2024.
Federated Farmers, the New Zealand Institute of Forestry, and Forest & Bird took the unprecedented step of writing a joint letter to political parties before the general election, expressing our concerns about browsing mammal impacts on farming, forestry, and nature. They called for urgent action to control exploding populations of leaf-eating pests, such as wallabies, deer, goats, and pigs. We asked for targeted funding and a strategic approach to bring about a reset in pest numbers across the country. It is one of a kete of nature-based solutions to reduce climate emissions that Forest & Bird has been highlighting throughout the year. Meanwhile, awesome mahi from Forest & Bird Dunedin Branch members, 350 Aotearoa, and others led to the Dunedin City Council adopting a higher investment Zero Carbon 2030 Plan – the first council in Aotearoa to have one!
NEW MARINE RESERVES
Thank you to everyone who supported our nearly decade-long campaign to secure a network of marine reserves in the Southern Ocean. Ministers announced six new no-take marine reserves off Otago and Southland, the first of their kind in Aotearoa for more than a decade. Species to benefit include hoiho yellow-eyed penguins, toroa northern royal albatross, pakake New Zealand sea lions, and kororā little blue penguins, as well as reef fishes and crustaceans. The 16-member South-East Marine Protected Area Forum, comprising mana whenua, commercial and recreational fishers, and representatives for marine, tourism, community, and environmental interests, was established in 2014. Forest & Bird’s representative was Sue Maturin. Thanks to the thousands of you who submitted in favour of the Forum’s recommended marine reserves.
Despite our best efforts, the general election was dominated by non-conservation issues, such as the cost-of-living crisis, crime, and taxes. While there were little slivers of hope, including Chris Luxon and Chris Hipkins both pledging to add feral cats to the Predator Free 2050 list for eradication, there was little public debate about the climate crisis and how to respond to it. Thanks to those of you who supported our Vote Nature campaign, especially the branches and Youth hubs that organised candidates’ meetings. Together, we reached hundreds of thousands of Kiwis, and we will continue to put pressure on the new government to introduce progressive environmental policies, restore climate health, and reverse biodiversity loss. This included sending letters to incoming Ministers setting out Forest & Bird’s key policy asks for restoring nature and the climate.
BIRD OF THE CENTURY
There was another equally hard-fought electoral contest this year – our first Bird of the Century. We decided to search for the native bird that has captured New Zealanders’ hearts over the past 100 years. Five extinct birds were added to the candidate line-up, and the stage was set for our most memorable competition yet, after US TV host John Oliver campaigned for pūteketeke and took New Zealand birds to the world. The inaugural Bird of the Year competition took place in 2005, as a poll included in Forest & Bird’s first email newsletter, with tūī taking out the title. The idea for our universally popular Bird of the Year competition came from conservationist Michael Szabo, who at the time was editor of Forest & Bird magazine.
Kiwi Conservation Club turned 35 this year and has been busy celebrating this milestone and Forest & Bird’s 100th birthday during the year. Hundreds of KCCers took part in centennial pātai challenges, including making cakes and creating postage stamp designs. KCC has 23 branches and 58 KCO volunteers, and its membership is on track to rise by nearly 10% this year. Its Wild Things magazine continues to be popular with young readers – look out for the first issue of 2024, which is all about fungi! Meanwhile, Forest & Bird Youth continues to go from strength to strength with a network of hubs run by young people throughout Aotearoa. National codirector Connor Wallace stepped down after seven years and handed the reins to a new national director, Jessica Lamb, who has been involved in conservation mahi more than five years, including as a leader or the Rotorua and Christchurch Youth Hubs. Jess is studying for a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Geography at the University of Canterbury.
THANKS TO YOU
We connected with new audiences through our Centennial Celebrations, with more than 42 national and local events taking place over a 12-month period that ends in March 2024.
- Our chief executive Nicola Toki has travelled all over the country, attending many celebrations, meeting our volunteers, giving speeches, and eating lots of cake!
- We celebrated 100 years of conservation through a variety of innovative partnerships, working with artists, writers, poets, photographers, historians, archivists, and museums.
- We published eight centennial magazines and used them to share our whakapapa, memories, and wins over the past century with Forest & Bird and KCC members.
- Branch committee members gave numerous 100th birthday presentations, wrote newspaper columns, and organised local history exhibitions.
- We launched a Centennial Speaker series featuring experts talking about various topics, from forest bathing and Westland petrels to conservation heroes, postage stamps, and sustainable fashion.
Forest & Bird is 100% independent, and we rely on you, our generous supporters, to carry out our vital conservation work. This includes managing 140 boots-on-the-ground conservation projects throughout the country.
This year, we received the largest bequest in our history, when Brian Clemens, of Christchurch, chose to leave $3m in his will to help protect nature for future generations. In another first, the Willocks family gifted a website to Forest & Bird in memory of their late daughter Penny. We are now managing and growing the Give a Trap platform, which gifts free traps to community groups.
We couldn’t do any of this without all of you – our donors, members, volunteers, staff, and partners.
As Nicola Toki said in her conference speech: “It’s people that make up the heart of the Society, so I must thank the Forest & Bird whānau for coming together to make change for wildlife and wild places – our board, our staff, our branches, our donors, our volunteers, our Kiwi Conservation Club, and our Youth Network.”
There are many challenges ahead, but we are looking forward to Forest & Bird’s next 100 years ... and counting.
This 2023 highlights article was compiled by Caroline Wood.
A version of this story was first published in the Summer 2023 issue of Forest & Bird magazine.