A Havelock North woman is thrilled to be heading south to the Kahurangi National Park for her last weeks of summer in February.

Natalie de Burgh, 21, won a Blake DOC Ambassador award for her passion and determination to make a difference in the environment.

"I'm definitely a conservationist at heart," Miss de Burgh said.

She was keen to thrust herself into a range of different experiences, such as the Blake DOC ambassadorship, before travelling overseas and eventually working towards a PhD.


"I don't know exactly what I want to do yet but it's good to experience lots of different things."

Miss de Burgh recently finished the final year of a Bachelor of Science majoring in ecology at the University of Auckland.

Despite her young age, the keen ecologist was not new to lending a hand to conservation and recently volunteered on Tiritiri Matangi Island, as well as for the Motutapu Restoration Trust and for Cape Sanctuary.

She also worked with Hawke's Bay Regional Council conducting surveys on ants to develop a management strategy to reduce the invasive species.

Miss de Burgh said she heard of the Blake DOC Ambassador awards when her friend worked with yellow-eyed penguins.

Although there was no such bird in the Kahurangi National Park, she said: "There has been mention of giant land snails where I am going."

She will spend about 10 days in the field working on the Flora Stream Restoration Project, which included a large stoat control operation to protect native species such as whio and the great spotted Kiwi.

"This is a really special opportunity to spend time in Kahurangi National Park with cheeky little kea and the world's rarest duck (whio) while directly contributing to conservation.

"It's also important that New Zealanders are aware of the plight of many of our unique species, many of whom continue to decline."

Miss de Burgh hoped to bring her knowledge and experiences back to the region and inform local youth in both schools and the wider community.

"It's important for people to realise they can help too, we all need to do our part."

The Sir Peter Blake Trust works with other organisations to provide a programme for people aged 18 to 25.

Sir Peter Blake Trust chief executive officer Shelley Campbell said the programme was unique and gave young people the opportunity to work with experts in the field.

"The Blake Ambassadors are all outstanding young people."

-To be eligible to receive a Blake Ambassador award, applicants must be 18 to 25 years old with leadership potential and have demonstrated a passion for the environment. In some cases, study in the relevant field may be required. Applications for the 2016 awards will open in April.