Conservation and music honoured

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Locals have been recognised for their work championing conservation, science and music as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

Professor Charles Eason, who has been the chief executive of the Cawthron Institute since 2012, was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science and wildlife conservation.

Under Professor Eason’s leadership the Cawthron Institute has increased staff numbers by around 100, trebled its operating surplus, and significantly increased its research output.

“He continues as an active scientist and researcher while also leading the institute,” his citation reads. “As chief executive he has overseen the securing of long-term research funding for the institute and the development and marketing of high-value, bioactive compounds extracted from algae, which have introduced a new innovative export product for New Zealand.”

He has also overseen the establishment by industry of major shellfish spat nurseries on Cawthron-owned land near Nelson and led a research programme to breed virus resistant oysters to support the rebuilding of the Pacific oyster industry in Northland. Professor Eason is recognised internationally as a leading expert on predator control, has published more than 200 papers and articles, and been lead speaker at numerous international conferences.

Jeffrey Connell, who lives in Nelson but was conservator for the Department of Conservation in Whanganui and Otago, was acknowledged as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to conservation.

Jeffrey played a pivotal role in the Ngai Tahu Treaty settlement process concerning the Greenstone, Elfin Bay and Routeburn high country stations.

During his time as Otago Conservator three new conservation parks were opened and he was instrumental in negotiating for public access to what would become the Motatapu Track.

He also secured and delivered the Otago Central Rail Trail, which sees thousands of users annually.

Debs Martin has held several roles at Forest and Bird and has led a number of environmental campaigns focused on conservation efforts. She was awarded Queen’s Service Medal for services to conservation.

Debs has served as Forest and Bird’s regional manager for the Top of the South Island since 2004. She led the society’s successful campaign and appeal to the Environment Court opposing the construction of a dam on the Mokihinui River, now in Kahurangi National Park. She campaigned for the protection of the Denniston Plateau from coal mining and is presently leading Forest and Bird’s campaign to prevent further mining on conservation land.

Regionally she supports local Forest and Bird branch members with their projects and commitments and runs the project to save long-tailed bats at Pelorus Bridge Scenic Reserve in Marlborough.

Nigel Weeks has worked with young people in music since 1994 and has been Head of Music at Manurewa High School, Kings College, MacLeans College, and currently Nayland College. He was recognised with a Queens Service Medal for services to music.

Nigel has led bands and choirs to win numerous national awards and Australasian titles and toured them to a wide range of international festivals. He has led a number of music-based fundraising initiatives and performances to help fund international tours.

He was selected by the Brass Band Association of New Zealand to audition and direct the National Youth Brass Band from 1998 to 2003 and the National Secondary Schools Band since 2002, the latter of which was established at his initiative. He is the current director of the National Brass Band of New Zealand, which he conducted on a successful inaugural tour to China and South Korea in 2014. He was reappointed as musical director in 2017, following which he led them to second place at the World Music Contest in Kerkrade, Holland.

He became Musical Director of the Nelson City Brass Band in 2016 and has been music director of the Nelson Symphony Orchestra and Nelson Civic Choir since 2018. Nigel also conducted the Nelson Male Voice Choir in 2019.