Putting in hours of volunteer work outside of running a busy veterinary clinic, Dr Andrea Wilson is grateful for the opportunities she has been given.

"I give because I'm just so grateful for having had these experiences," Andrea said upon being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to wildlife conservation.

"I don't think I need an award for it - it's the other way around.

"For me it's been my privilege to be able to do this and to just be part of so many interesting conservation issues."

Advertisement

Total shock was Andrea's first reaction on finding out.

"I was absolutely shocked and had no idea at all."

Andrea has volunteered at the Ngā Manu Nature Reserve in Waikanae as an honorary vet since 2001, playing an instrumental role in the wildlife restoration and conservation work of the Ngā Manu Trust.

Working to develop the trust's native species recovery programmes, Andrea has trained volunteers and staff in animal handling, overseen the health of resident birds, and helped develop facilities to support the trust.

Andrea worked closely with organisations on behalf of the trust including Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University Veterinary School and the Department of Conservation.

She has worked with Victoria University of Wellington and DoC on a Tuatara Headstart Project for 18 years which has received international recognition for its success.

With research showing the sex of a tuatara depends on the temperature of the soil where the eggs are laid, Andrea was part of a group that tracked female tuatara on Stephens Island, measuring the temperature of their nests to show how climate change is having an effect on this species.

She has also collaborated closely as a practitioner and advisor with DoC on its breed-for-release and recovery programmes for native birds.

Andrea's wildlife and conservation work started while she was running the Raumati Veterinary Centre when she was given the unusual case of a black swan that had been found with a broken leg on Paekākāriki Hill Rd.

"I was then faced with what to do with the swan after treating it and someone suggested Ngā Manu."

While Ngā Manu were unable to take the swan, it was Andrea's initial connection with the trust.

"They said you're obviously interested in birds, and asked me to be the vet for their birds.

"I've always had an interest in birds and I've always loved animals since I was very young.

"I was a nurse first, but always that longing was there to be a vet.

"There were no other vets in the area that had shown an interest in birds so I would treat them and take them to Ngā Manu for convalescence."

It was through this work with Ngā Manu that Andrea became more concerned with conservation and started working on other projects.

Ngā Manu also proved a place of respite for Andrea, who continued to run her veterinary clinic doing her conservation work on the side as a volunteer.

"Because the clinic was very busy it was quite difficult to take time out to get up there but it was wonderful because it was really little respite care for me to go up there and chill out for a while.

Now retired from running the Raumati Veterinary Centre, Andrea continues to volunteer at Ngā Manu and work on projects with a number of different groups.

"I think it's the amazing work Ngā Manu do that has kept me interested.

"Just to be part of Ngā Manu and what they're doing with conservation, it's just been so interesting.

"That's why I think this award was so out of the blue."