A Kerikeri man's 20-year effort to restore forest habitats in the Bay of Islands and open up access to the public has been recognised with a Queen's Service Medal for services to conservation.

Rod Brown's mission began in 2000 when he joined a group of volunteers clearing weeds from an abandoned replanting project in Kerikeri Inlet.

It struck him as a pity to leave the island's replanting half done so he vowed to finish it, but first he needed a supply of native seedlings.

The former Navy man set up the Shadehouse, a social enterprise whose volunteers have so far produced 310,000 low-cost native trees for replanting projects around Northland.

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That led to reforestation projects on the Cavalli Islands and later in the Bay of Islands.

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Rod Brown in the Shadehouse plant nursery in Kerikeri. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Rod Brown in the Shadehouse plant nursery in Kerikeri. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Brown also co-founded Guardians of the Bay of Islands which is returning locally extinct wildlife to the Ipipiri islands between Russell and Cape Brett.

Since 2009 rats have been eradicated and five species of birds and one type of lizard have been re-introduced as part of Project Island Song.

Brown ranked his part in the restoration of the once environmentally impoverished islands as one of his most important achievements.

Earlier, in 2003, plans for an eight-storey high-rise in central Kerikeri spurred Brown to form the lobby group Vision Kerikeri. Their efforts saw the high rise scrapped and tighter urban development rules introduced.

Through Vision Kerikeri and its spin-off group Friends of Wairoa Stream, Brown also succeeded in opening up a walkway to a waterfall the public had been unable to access for 60 years.

Rod Brown (right) at work at the Wairoa Stream in Kerikeri. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Rod Brown (right) at work at the Wairoa Stream in Kerikeri. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Brown was surprised and embarrassed by the honour, though he was ''pleased and proud'' the community projects he had been involved in had been recognised.

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His skills weren't on the ground but he had great community teams doing the hard yards.

Brown said he was a great believer in ''just getting on and doing things'' instead of moaning.

''The community can be very powerful. It's far better for the community to work in partnership with DOC and the council than to expect everything to be done by government agencies. And the council and government agencies need to learn that the community need not be a threat, but that many achievements can be made at low cost and with real community buy-in.''


Brown was also an early advocate for the protection of Puketi Forest and was a founder member of Carbon Neutral Kerikeri. Previous accolades include Rotary's highest honour, a national award from the Walking Access Commission and a Pride of New Zealand Award.