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Pelorus People: Wendy Sullivan


Grassroots conservation is the passion that drives NZ Landcare Trust Marlborough catchment coordinator, Wendy Sullivan.

Conservation and production are sometimes seen as incompatible when with the right tools, they can be managed sympathetically, she believes.

A planned career protecting endangered species got off to a good start. Techniques she developed - towards completing a Master of Science in Conservation Ecology at Lincoln University – were successfully used to build populations of endangered Chatham petrels on South East Island, in the Chathams. Then came several summer contracts studying birds living along braided riverbeds.

Wendy Sullivan works with 13-year-old Corbinian Merkle to control blackberry. (Photo: Penny Wardle)

Next Wendy became a permanent ranger with DOC. Jobs included helping protect native forest and birds from pests and predators on a “mainland island” at Boundary Stream in Hawke’s Bay. She was project coordinator for Ō Tū Wharekai, a collaborative multi-stakeholder project involving DOC, the community and researchers working with runholders to protect 200,000 hectares of rivers, lakes and wetlands in the Ashburton Lakes/Upper Rangitata River.

“I learned that farmer decision-making is very evidence-based, around stock health, soil health and water quality. Provide the science showing an environment is threatened and people are motivated to turn things around.”

Bad knees got in the way of physically demanding active research, but adversity turned to opportunity when Wendy switched focus to the crossover between biodiversity and community relations.

In 2020, she took up the NZ Landcare Trust job after 20 years with DOC, most recently in Picton.

A highlight is working with diverse people, all committed to improving the health of Te Hoiere/Pelorus rivers, streams and the Havelock/Motuweka Estuary.

“Te Hoiere Project brings together a whole range of stakeholders and partners who put their heads together to come up with solutions, everyone working on the same problem,” she says.

This story originally appeared in the December 2022 Te Hoiere Project newsletter.

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