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Shannon Gillies finds out from Ms Searle what the group is up to, and what she considers is the Waitaki district’s biggest environmental challenge.
Q What work needs to happen in North Otago?
It’s probably protecting habitats. Without the plants, you can’t have the birds or the lizards. The other one — it’s right across the country — is the need to be predator free.
Q What is the biggest environmental threat for the future?
It has to be climate change. Here in North Otago, it will have an impact. I haven’t lived here long enough to make long-term claims about changes we’re seeing in our environment in North Otago, but when you talk to people here, they talk of extremes in the weather and that’s what you’d expect to see with climate change.
Q What do you have to say to people who continue to believe "climate change" is not real?
As far as I’m concerned, it’s scientific consensus. I’m not going to convince someone who doesn’t want to believe. Climate change is not going to be bothered if you believe in it or not. It’s going to do what it’s going to do.
Q Can government bodies ignore the environment when it comes to creating policy?
I think people can ignore the environment, but if they ignore it, there are consequences. All our wealth and prospects in life ... a good meal, all that food, comes from the environment, or if you go on holiday to a beautiful place you’re appreciating the environment.
Q Every major political party in New Zealand has an environmental policy or a growing green element. What does that say about the power of environmentalist groups?
I do like to think that some of the projects involving Forest and Bird and [other] non-government groups has helped raise the awareness of protecting the environment. It’s not a nice-to-have — the environment is essential.
Q Why do you care about the environment?
I grew up with a real passion for animals and I think that’s where it all started. The passion for animals grew. Once you start caring about the animals, you wonder about where they live. It grew from there. I wanted to protect all the animals in the world.
Q How did you become a member of the Forest and Bird Waitaki branch?
The branch had been inactive since the 1990s. A contact called Zuni Steer was excited about it. She organised a couple of meetings. I ended up the secretary and I’m now the chairperson.
Q What are the projects your team hope to do in 2017?
Our main project will be continuing the planting on Cape Wanbrow ... keep doing what we can in our wee patch.
Q Why did you come to Oamaru?
I was appointed the curator of the museum in August 2010. I grew up in Christchurch. I did my bachelor of arts at the University of Canterbury and did my masters of museum and heritage studies in Wellington.
Q First job in a museum?
I had worked at the Hawke’s Bay Art Gallery as a registrar. When I was studying for my BA, I wasn’t 100 % sure what I was going to do. I was really interested in art, history, art history — just about anything, and museums are a great part of that.