“Graeme Atkins of Ngāti Porou is a Department of Conservation ranger whose contribution to conservation goes well above and beyond his employment,” said Eugenie Sage.
“The Loder Cup was first donated in 1926 to encourage and honour New Zealanders who work to investigate, promote, retain and cherish our indigenous flora; this ethos resonates throughout Graeme’s life and work.”
“Through his passion for taonga and rongoā, Graeme has made an outstanding contribution to the conservation of Aotearoa’s native plants. His protection of very rare plants, such as the white kakabeak/ngutukaka, the native iris mikoikoi, and dactylanthus on the East Coast has been vital to plant conservation in a region which is relatively under-studied.”
“His advocacy for restoring the health of the forests of the Raukūmara Range has helped secure a record $34 million investment in Te Raukūmara Pae Maunga project. It is a partnership between Te Whānau-ā-Apanui, Ngāti Porou and DOC to control deer, goats, possums and other pests over 150,000 hectares to protect the Raukūmara forests, ensure species such as whio/blue duck, kaka, kererū, and Hochstetter’s frog can thrive once again, and strengthen ahi kaa for manawhenua.”
Graeme learnt rongoā from his grandmother and credits his passion for plants to his tohunga ancestor. Graeme continues this hereditary interest by running rongoā classes and caring for a rongoā garden.
“He is humble and compassionate, has strong relationships with Māori and has ignited a passion in so many people to cherish our country’s flora. He is a true kaitiaki for indigenous biodiversity,” said Eugenie Sage.
Graeme was nominated by the East Coast Hawke’s Bay Conservation Board, with supporting letters from the Longbush Ecological Trust, Massey University, Hikurangi Enterprises, and O2 Landscapes.