We are so happy to let you know that the outgoing Chair of the Endangered Species Foundation New Zealand, Stu Muir, who is now our new advisor for wetland restoration, and Graeme Atkins, kaitieki, endangered species expert, project leader for Tairāwhiti Ngutukākā - East Coast Kakabeak, are both being recognised in the New Zealand Environmental Hero of the Year Awards.
Graeme Atkins (Ngāti Porou, Rongomaiwahine) is a living embodiment of kaitiakitanga, whose significant contribution to flora conservation extends well beyond his decades of employment as a DOC Ranger.
Growing up in the mighty Te Raukūmara, Graeme learned rongoā from his mother. grandmother and other tribal elders and credits his passion for plants to his tohunga rongoā tīpuna (ancestors). Graeme works with anyone and everyone: whānau, hapū, iwi, landowners, corporates and children of all ages, to do whatever he can to promote, preserve and protect Aotearoa New Zealand’s native plants, particularly in the relatively under-studied East Coast region.
Referred to as the “Māori David Attenborough of plants” in the conservation community, Graeme has demonstrated sustained excellence in botanical discovery and played a pivotal role in protecting many very rare plants (such as ngutukaka (kakabeak, Clianthus maximus), mikokoi (native iris, Libertia cranwelliae), and Putiputi o Te Ao Pouri (Dactylanthus tailorii).
Stu Muir is an environmentally focused farmer with a background in riparian and wetland restoration and education. He is widely respected throughout the rural community and beyond for his efforts in revitalising Mangati stream, located southwest of Pukekohe. The stream, flowing from the Waikato River through the backyard of the Muir family farm, was once stagnant and blocked with fallen willows.
Today, a variety of native fish and bird species have returned to the area. Stu leads environmental efforts on his farm, including restoring native wetland and introducing pest control over a 400-hectare area. Fluent in Te Reo Māori, Stu brings a solid matauranga Māori perspective to conservation strategy.
He collaborates closely with key national and regional stakeholders including Iwi, DOC, Fish & Game, Forest & Bird, Dairy NZ, and Predator Free NZ, and is Chair of Endangered Species Foundation New Zealand. As a fifth-generation farmer, Stu inspires many with his generous advocacy and wholehearted commitment to restoring both his farm and the environment.
Ngā mihi nui ki a kōrua!