Researcher in ecology receives Hamilton Kirikiriroa medal

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The Hamilton Kirikiriroa Medal, one of the city’s highest honors, was awarded yesterday to University of Waikato environmentalist Professor Bruce Clarkson at the Claudelands Events Center.

Since 2016, Professor Clarkson has led a research program funded by the Ministry of Enterprise, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), called People, Cities and Nature, which focuses on the restoration of indigenous nature. in an urban environment.

His research has guided numerous biodiversity and ecological restoration projects, including the Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park and the Hamilton Ravine Restoration Program.

“Bruce is a huge treasure for the council – and a taonga for our city – because we can count on him for all the years of work he has done and his expertise,” said Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate, who presented the medal.

“New Zealand’s biodiversity is seriously threatened and still is. If it weren’t for people like Bruce, we’d be worse off.

Mayor Southgate says Bruce’s research has helped guide the council’s increased commitment to environmental sustainability, native planting and biodiversity in the Nature in the City strategy and long-term plan.

“Being a green city is one of our strategic priorities,” said Mayor Southgate. “Bruce is the source of much of the knowledge and science behind many environmental projects across the city and beyond. “

She remembers meeting Professor Clarkson early in his political career, when he set out his vision for Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, near the Hamilton Zoo.

Since 2004, the 65.5 hectare municipal site has been transformed from a farm enclosure into an internationally renowned regenerating indigenous forest, a wetland and a biodiversity-rich lake ecosystem. Community groups and schools have mobilized to plant native trees and develop the region.

“Bruce’s research has created a huge ripple effect in the community,” said Mayor Southgate. “He shares his knowledge in such a relaxed and low-key way, which means it becomes accessible to everyone.”

His research has also supported the restoration of urban gullies. Hamilton has four major gully systems, which meander through some 750 acres of its suburban backyards.

“These are really important because they are the lungs of our city,” said Mayor Southgate. “They rejuvenate the air we breathe, they filter our runoff, they are home to native birds and other creatures, and they are absolutely fundamental to protecting our biodiversity for the future.”

Greening urban environments also has benefits for human health and well-being, which is central to Professor Clarkson of the MBIE Endeavor Fund’s new research proposal, Restoring Urban Nature.

“As our cities get bigger and our buildings rise, green spaces become really essential in my opinion,” said Mayor Southgate. “And Bruce always knew it – the healing power of being in a green space.”

The Hamilton Kirikiriroa Medal was awarded to two other people at Monday’s ceremony, including Professor Clarkson’s wife, Dr Bev Clarkson, an internationally renowned expert in wetland research and restoration at Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research.

Together, the Clarksons have demonstrated “extraordinary service to the environment and to education in our city,” said Mayor Southgate.

The Hamilton Kirikiriroa Medal was introduced in 2014 to highlight “the best of the best,” Mayor Southgate said.

“These are our shining stars. we do not give [the medals] lightly, the criteria are quite rigorous. The medal is awarded to people who have had a huge impact on the well-being of Hamilton and who have worked for a long time. “

Professor Clarkson says he and Bev, who is also a University of Waikato alumnus, were “honored” to receive their medals.

“It shows that our research is valued and that the board understands the value of investing in nature.”

More information about Bruce and his work can be found here.

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