Pirongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society won the Green Ribbon Award category for biodiversity protection at the award ceremony held at Parliament Buildings on 8 June. Chairperson Clare St Pierre and Secretary Dianne June accepted the award on behalf of the society which was presented by MP Gareth Hughes. It was their standout contribution to protecting kokako at Northern Pureora which helped them win the award along with the voluntary efforts over 15 years on Mt Pirongia where they are now poised to return long lost kokako to the maunga.
In their acceptance speech, the two representatives admitted being completely overwhelmed with winning the award. "When we set out hearts on protecting kokako at Okahukura, the idea that we would be up for a national conservation award just didn't even enter our heads," said Clare St Pierre. "We've used a community conservation and collaboration model to achieve outstanding outcomes - again, beyond anything we imagined - and we hope others will be inspired to look after native biodiversity in their own localities. It is after all about kaitiakitanga for the special things which set us apart as New Zealanders. We absolutely appreciate the recognition of our project by the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation, but the real thanks have to go to our partners on the ground - DoC Te Kuiti and Pureora staff, Kessels Ecology and of course our fantastic volunteers."
Because of the efforts of PIrongia Te Aroaro o Kahu Restoration Society in protecting a key remnant population of kokako at Okahukura, surrounding fragmented subpopulations have been able to be connected which allowed the entire Northern Pureora kokako population to be classified as one population. In achieving this, the population is now seen as the strongest in the country.