Te Puke branch of Forest & Bird has scored something of a coup with its next guest speaker.
Kevin Hague, Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand chief executive, will be in Te Puke for the branch meeting next Monday.
Originally from Greymouth on the South Island's West Coast, Kevin has had a high profile nationwide for many years, with leadership roles in business, the Government and community sectors.
Before joining Forest & Bird as chief executive in October 2016, Kevin served as an MP for eight years and was previously New Zealand AIDS Foundation's executive director and West Coat District Health Board chief executive.
Kevin says he is thrilled to be able to talk at the branch meeting.
''I think the thing I'd always say about the Bay of Plenty is you kind of have a microcosm of New Zealand's conservation and environmental issues where you've got, of course, the coastline so you've got all those marine issues.
"You don't have the alpine issues I guess, but that's pretty much the only bit that you don't have. You've got all the forests that are important, you've got wetlands that are important and you've got the key tensions with some industries, particularly the fishing industry, agricultural industry, horticultural industry. You've even got a little bit of mining.''
He says one of the things he will be stressing will be the perilous nature of the environment in New Zealand.
''I'll explain just how close nature is to the breaking point,'' he says.
''We are arguably the world's hot spot for biodiversity, or at least one of its hottest spots. But we are the country in the world that has the highest proportion of our species at risk of extinction. And if we lose them from here, they are lost to the world forever.''
He says many nature documentaries - especially more recent ones - portray the world as being ''in pretty bad shape''.
''The thinking is we [in New Zealand] are doing all right, but actually, no, the world is in pretty bad shape and we are at the very worst end of it - so it's about bringing home that reality to people and just how close we are to breaking point, what's driving that and what we need to do to turn it around.''
Kevin says he may also talk about the implications of the recent general election on the environment and conservation.
''We have a new government that's, I guess, a different version of the government we've had for the past three years, but a government that should be less subject to the hand brake.
"What's it going to do? What are the prospects of achieving decent environmental protection and restoration with this government? And what's Forest and Bird specifically going to do over the next three years?''
He says the organisation won't be shy in terms of talking about some of the reforms that are needed.
''We are already in the space of engaging with the new ministers and some returning ministers as well, and trying to achieve the change that's needed."
He says while the organisation has had some successes in protecting nature, in most cases it has been a case of minimising damage - and that ultimately the focus needs to shift to restoration.
''One of the things I've been saying for some years is, we are almost 100 years old and one of the largest community organisations in the country. And in that time we've had some really important wins, but most of the time we've been in this role of protecting nature from some of the threats against it.
''In the long run that means losing because it's rare that our victories of protecting nature from something bad happening are complete so there's usually a little bit of damage, so you have a little bit of damage here, a little bit of damage there and over time you get that death by 1000 cuts. We have to somehow move beyond just trying to protect into trying to restore.''
Taking the kakapo as an example, he says while it has been brought back from the brink of extinction, it is still very very endangered.
''The next thing we need to do to restore that bird population and keep it on a good path is to start introducing it into other areas, but we haven't got any - we need to start restoring other environments, other habitats so we have somewhere to release birds into.''
He says there have been positives.
''There are some good signs. Thinking about farmers for example. The public debate tends to focus on the worst where we do need much stronger rules around protecting fresh water for example, or addressing emissions from farmers, but at the other end of the spectrum many farmers are doing really great stuff restoring wetlands and diversifying farms.
"There are some fantastic things going on, but overall we are still losing wetlands - so we need to find a way of generalising that really good practice.
''There are people who want to draw a black and white picture of greenies against farmers and that's so wrong. We work pretty closely with a bunch of farmers and we want to see those really great efforts rewarded and help the bulk of farmers follow that example."
Branch president Carole Long says It is a great privilege to have Kevin visiting Te Puke and we are keen to share our conservation concerns and aspirations with him.
The talk takes place at the Masonic Lodge, 18 Oxford St, Te Puke, at 7.30pm.