The woman swept away while riding her horse in a Wairarapa river has been named as award-winning journalist Helen Louise Bain.

Ms Bain, 38, was Forest & Bird's communications manager.

Her horse fell while trying to cross the swollen Ruamahanga River yesterday. She was found downstream but could not be revived.

She started working for the conservation society Forest & Bird 3-1/2 years ago.

General manager Mike Britton said she would be sorely missed.

He said Ms Bain helped transform the society, which had limited resources, by giving it a professional and efficient communications capacity.

"She was extremely passionate, and extremely skilled journalist, but also had great political skills and knew just about everybody. She had a great ability to get on with stuff and get it done."

Ms Bain cut her teeth reporting for The Dominion newspaper. She picked up several Qantas awards while working there from 1994 until 2003.

She then became John Tamihere's press secretary and co-wrote his recent biography Black and White.

In 2004 she took up the post of political editor of the Sunday Star Times.