The Wakatipu Reforestation Trust is the brainchild of Neill and Barb Simpson, whose hard work over the past 15 years on Pigeon and Pig Islands has seen the once bare and weedy islands become a haven for native birds thanks to hundreds of volunteers. Inspired by this success, Neill and Barb recruited support from several funding agencies, and in 2013 created the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust. 

Our Vision

To protect and restore the native biodiversity of the Wakatipu Basin through revegetation projects, collaboration, education and advocacy. 

Key Strategies

    Identify revegetation areas on public land and provide plants for these projects to enable future vegetation linkages and increased biodiversity.


    Be the catalyst in increasing long-term community awareness and engagement, by recruiting, enabling and valuing volunteers, organisations, businesses and local government. 

    Provide opportunities to actively educate the whole community in order to inform, value, enjoy and inspire. And be recognized as local experts on revegatation and provide advice to help others support our vision. 


    Ensure that the WRT has the funding to deliver on the strategic plan and to sustain the trust into the future. And to ensure that the WRT has the capability and capacity to deliver on the strategic plan and to sustainably support thoughtful, high quality growth. 

Wakatipu Reforestation Trust Documents 

The Trustees are responsible for the overall strategic and financial management of the Trust.

Neill Simpson: Chairperson

Neill is a botanist/ecologist and joint winner of the Loder Cup with Barb and awarded QSM for services to conservation. He is a native tree plantaholic and dreams of the Wakatipu area or large parts of it, returned to its native cover and full of native birds. He created a long roadside native garden along Peninsula Rd to show off native plants. Recreation is planting, reading, playing classical piano (once his hands have been washed) and occasional skiing.

Barbara Simpson

Barb is both passionate and knowledgeable about NZ botany and loves working with kids to encourage an interest in native plants.  With Neill has a native garden full of native birds and were joint winners of the Loder Cup 2015/16. She loves the nursery and its happenings, potting, organising, getting plants out for group plantings. Has a great veggie garden. Still takes part in Wakatipu High School camps. Reads when not busy.

Benjamin Teele

Ben was born in the United States, before moving to New Zealand at a young age. He spent his family holidays in the basin, before moving permanently to the area during his high school years. After a stint away at the University of Otago and his OE, he came back to live in Arrowtown. He has a keen amateur interest in native biodiversity, and is involved with several related groups (Predator Free Arrowtown, Wakatipu Beech Seeding Project, Arrowtown Wilding Group) as well as the WRT.

Jada Van Vliet

Jada fell head over heels for New Zealand's native forest 12 years ago when she got the opportunity to guide walking and kayaking tours in the lush West Coast wilderness of Lake Moeraki.  Her passion for learning about and protecting New Zealand's diverse ecology grew from this seed and carries through in her work with the WRT.  She loves getting her boots dirty and a spade in the ground but also appreciates evolving the structure of this organisation alongside the other amazing Trustees.

Jill Hodgson

Jill hails from rural Southland but has been holidaying here since the mid 60's.  She is a teacher and has been involved with environmental education and sustainability for the past 20 years, having a strong belief in teaching children about respecting the environment in all its forms. At presents she is working with Shotover Primary, restoring the wetlands near the Shotover/Kawarau river confluence, increasing the number of natives within the school, and teaching how to grow native plants from seed.  Their next step is to learn how to propagate from plants that are flourishing in the wetlands. Coming from a strong gardening family she is enjoying learning more about the plants from this region and bringing them into her own garden. 

Blair Devlin

Blair is interested in the concept of sustainable development which led him to study town planning at University. He is a local planning consultant and has previously been involved with the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Group.  With a young family he is interested in environmental issues generally, and would love to see more native plants and birds in the Wakatipu Basin. Blair also likes watching and occasionally playing football.

Peter Blanshard: Treasurer

Peter was born in Whangarei and educated in Auckland. As a qualified Chartered Accountant his career was overseas in the major financial cities in Investment Banking and Insurance.He retired to the Wakatipu basin about 10 years ago and has always been interested in outdoor activities and the biodiversity and health of the countryside. Therefore getting involved with such an enthusiastic group like minded individuals at WRT was a no brainer. When not outdoors cycling, tramping or gardening he enjoys relaxing with a good book, a good wine and a piece of classical music.

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The Trust has two part time staff, who oversee the day to day operations of the Trust, and coordinate volunteer workgroups.

Karen O'Donahoo: Operations Manager

Karen is an Aussie by birth, but now calls Queenstown home.  She spent much of her career working for major corporates, and is thrilled to call the Nursery or various Keystone sites her office.  Having travelled and tramped extensively, Karen has always had a love of nature, the outdoors and the environment.  She started eating Organically grown food decades before it became mainstream, because she felt that the planet was being polluted by overuse of chemicals and pesticides, and she wanted to make a difference at a personal level.  When Karen is not working for the WRT, she can be found among her own vegetable and native gardens, or walking her dogs around the Kelvin Peninsula trail while marvelling at the Tuis singing in the Kowhai trees.

Jo Smith: Education Officer

Jo has been involved with DOC in various roles over the past 8 years including working on the DOC Youth Development Programme and the National Biodiversity Monitoring Programme. She has been lucky enough to have worked in some remote areas and offshore islands. She is a plant enthusiast with a particular soft spot for alpine vegetation. A believer in increasing knowledge through narrative, experiential learning and helping to narrow the gap between humanity and nature. A healthy obsession for biking, gardening, all things outdoors and a love of the arts. 

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