Noel Brian Birchall
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to outdoor recreation and conservation
Noel Birchall has seen NZ Fish and Game Council grow from volunteer-run management to being professionally run by more than 70 full-time staff, in his 53 years of involvement with the council.
Birchall says the council today has an annual budget of around $10 million, which he believes to be the highlight of his long career.
Kawakawa-born and Kaikohe-bred Birchall says he is honoured to receive recognition for what he has put into Northland.
He was elected to the Bay of Islands Acclimatisation Society Council in 1967 at the age of 20, prior to the establishment of Fish and Game Councils. He then became a member of the NZ Fish and Game Council from 2015 until he decided to stand down in 2021.
Although Birchall came from a family of devoted fishermen, he was introduced to duck and pheasant hunting at the age of 15 by his lifelong friend John Sharp, to whom he contributes part of the recognition.
"The biggest thing we did in those days was releasing pheasants out into the wild to try and drive up the pheasant population.
"I have had a hunting license every year since 1964."
He supported youth and families in outdoor sports, particularly hunting and fishing, and actively promoted habitat protection and preservation.
"Without habitat, we won't have our recreational sports."
One of the major concerns for fish and game is the loss of habitat, and through the draining of swamps and wetlands, Birchall developed a 12-hectare wetland and lake on his property near Kaikohe.
Three generations of keen outdoor sportspeople took part in hunting and fishing because of that, said Birchall.
The 74-year-old was awarded a Conservation Award by the Department of Conservation in 2002 recognising his contributions to conservation.
Birchall recalled the time when his family shifted to Kaikohe in 1953, coincidentally the same year the Queen visited Kaikohe and stayed overnight in the hotel there.
In 1990, he joined the Kaikohe Rotary Club to support the youth and the community in the district.
However, for the continuity of the good work, Birchall urged more people to get involved with the club.