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Eric Pawson (Chair)

Eric Pawson is Emeritus Professor of Geography at the University of Canterbury. He has written widely in environmental history and environmental management, and has a particular interest in community-based research and learning, developed with students in the city since the earthquakes. He has been active in the Avon Ōtākaro Network for a number of years. He did the background work on the Living Laboratory that is one of the foundations of the Ōtākaro Avon River Regeneration Plan, and is also now involved with the Ōtākaro Living Laboratory Trust.


Tanya Didham

Following the Christchurch earthquakes Tanya volunteered with community group Greening the Red Zone, becoming co-chair in 2018. She took on their facebook page, created audiovisual content, gave talks, met with dozens of stakeholders, and wrote countless letters and submissions on behalf of nature in the red zone. When Colin Meurk mooted the ecosanctuary, Greening the Red Zone took it on as a sister project and Tanya began running the Waitākiri Ecosanctuary facebook page too. She is the manager at Avebury House in Richmond, and on her 'green spine' commute from Aranui, often stops to take snaps of the river.


Colin Meurk

Colin is a Crown Research associate and consultant ecologist. His mission is application of
biogeography, ecological restoration and design, landscape dynamics, subantarctic/alpine
ecology, and citizen science ( to nature conservation across cultural
landscapes; he has received various awards for his participatory and science-based
conceptualisation, planning and design for biodiversity. Colin’s international reputation has led to invited book chapters and speaking engagements at conferences and symposia in Germany, Japan, South Africa, Russia, China, Florida and Panama.

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Michael Steenson

Mike has a Master of Science in Geography from the University of Canterbury, in which he developed a passion to champion community values, involvement, and local knowledge into conservation planning and management. He is currently the Ranger of Pūtaringamotu Riccarton Bush. He seeks to improve native biodiversity across Christchurch through education, community involvement and outreach, and networking with the various conservation entities

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Thomas Blakie

Thomas Blakie (Ngāi Tahu) is a student at the University of Canterbury studying geography, political science and indigenous studies. Growing up in the red zone, Thomas has always had a passion for the future of Ōtautahi. Working in the community he has strengthened the voice of rangatahi, with a focus on how our city's urban spaces can develop in an equitable and sustainable way. Engaged in his various roles, Thomas aims to combine his passion for the community and our changing city with his digital skills to forward the goals of the Waitakiri eco-sanctuary. 


Holly Johnstone

Holly is a recent graduate from the University of Canterbury with a degree in Geography and Environmental Science. She is the Project Coordinator for the Otakaro Living Laboratory Trust, coordinating climate change related research opportunities in the Ōtākaro Avon River Corridor red zone. Holly leads a repeat photography (rephotography) project in the river corridor capturing landscape changes from community projects, ecosystem regeneration, and climate change.


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Psiren Kirk

Psiren Kirk is an experienced Operations and Service Delivery Manager in the telecommunications industry. She is an MBA student at University of Canterbury, completing her Consulting Project with the trust to identify key stakeholder groups and uncover how their roles can contribute to the successful development of the ecosanctuary. She is skilled in business planning, coaching, communication, event and project management, and team building. She has been volunteering with various community groups for the last 15 years.

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Paula Godfrey

Paula Godfrey (Ngāpuhi) is an ecologist specialising in restoration ecology at Tipu Consultants. She has experience in large and small scale restoration that incorporates mātauranga Māori principles and community engagement. She became interested in the Ōtākaro Avon river corridor after moving to the city from Kaukapakapa (North Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland) in 2020, recognising the asset Ōtautahi has been given in the form of an inner-city green area. She believes that nature areas should be accessible to all, and close to where we live.

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Rod Hay

Rod Hay has had a long wildlife conservation career, including with the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society, DSIR Ecology Division, and the Department of Conservation. He completed his PhD on the wrybill, and has studied New Zealand robins, black robins, kōkako and kererū. At DOC he managed staff and research programmes dealing with animal pests, weeds, and mainland and island ecosystem recovery. He also represented New Zealand in conservation conventions including CITES, the Convention on Migratory Species, the Convention on Biodiversity and the South Pacific Regional Environment Programme.

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Denise Ford

Denise Ford is a member of the Travis Wetland Trust having been involved in the wetland for over 20 years. She is also chair of the Avon-Otakaro Forest Park, a group that has been working in the river corridor to further natural regeneration of native species at a number of sites. One of these is on Brooker Avenue where they have planted over 3000 native plants in anticipation of the ecosanctuary. She is passionate about New Zealand's indigenous flora and fauna and firmly believes our natural history should be an important part of our urban environment

Donald Bruggers

Don has extensive and diverse geotechnical engineering experience in New Zealand and the Western United States including Washington, Alaska, Oregon and California. He supports projects throughout New Zealand. Outside of the office you may find Don on his bike or on one of the wonderful Port Hills trails enjoying this awesome countryside that we are so blessed to reside within.

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