Conservation Award finalist Fran O'Connor, of Queenstown,
at work on one of her projects, clearing scrub from the
historic pioneer era Coopers Tce site, rediscovered near
the Arrow River in 2010. Photo by James Beech.
A dedicated Queenstown environmentalist is one of three
finalists in the Department of Conservation (Doc) annual Inland
Otago Conservation Awards, to be presented in Cromwell tomorrow
Finalist Fran O'Connor is a driver-guide for Nomad Safaris,
taking people to Macetown and Skippers. She is also involved
in volunteer projects across the Wakatipu.
Ms O'Connor was part of Eco Action for many years and is an
active member of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Group. She
joined when it started in 2009 and gave a lot of time as both
secretary and in hands-on work.
She is passionate about keeping Queenstown Hill free of
wilding pines. Her last trip up there with a volunteer group
resulted in more than 3500 wildings being removed.
When not pulling pines, she is nurturing kowhai seedlings to
plant out as part of Doc's Project Gold initiative.
Ms O'Connor has turned her talents to Coopers Tce, a
gold-miners' settlement near the Arrow River. Much of the
work has involved careful scrub clearance to unearth the huts
She intends to persuade the Historic Places Trust to permit
her to unearth the cobblestone floor she hopes is hidden
under years of leaves, dirt and rubbish, and to have the site
looking beautiful for the Gold 150 celebrations in Arrowtown
Her future plans include a plantation of kowhai and other
natives trees at Maori Point on the Skippers Rd, in memory of
the late Doc ranger Barry Lawrence and his passion for the
environment. She wants to call it "Barry's Bush".
Once that is done, she has plans to go and find the South
In recognition of her work, Ms O'Connor was awarded "the
Heart of the District" award by the Queenstown Lakes District
Council in April this year.
The other finalists are John Gibson, of Patearoa, for his 18
years of voluntary work on the Otago Central Rail Trail
Trust, and the Diamond Lake Predator Control Group, Wanaka.
Doc acting Otago conservator Alan McKenzie said the awards
honoured the great work of people who went the extra mile for
"This is an opportunity to celebrate Otago's 2012
conservation champions who have shown how much they love New
Zealand and who work hard to conserve and protect the special
things that make our country, and our backyard, unique," Mr
He said the quality of the award finalists was again
outstanding, making it difficult for the Otago Conservation
Board to select just three finalists.