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Martinborough Winemaker Honoured by Top Conservation Award

Phyll and Clive Paton with faithful labrador Rata.

Phyll and Clive Paton with faithful labrador Rata.

Ata Rangi founder and New Zealand Pinot Noir pioneer Clive Paton, of Martinborough, has been honoured with the award of the Loder Cup for 2014 for “outstanding achievements as a motivator, protector, promoter and propagator of New Zealand flora.”

One of New Zealand’s oldest and most prestigious conservation awards, the Cup is awarded each year by the Minister of Conservation on the recommendation of the Loder Cup Committee. Mr Paton was unaware he had been nominated for the award by the Wellington Conservation Board and is thrilled by the accolade: “Awards are certainly neither a motivation nor a goal when I throw myself into conservation work, but this is a wonderful surprise and I’m humbled by it. The cup is engraved with the names of many of my heroes.”

Mr Paton and the Ata Rangi team have long-standing involvement with conservation activities. Ata Rangi is celebrating its tenth anniversary of supporting Project Crimson – the charitable trust focusing on protection and reforestation of pohutukawa and endangered Northern rata. In addition, Mr Paton grows rata from seed and, over the past decade, he has planted these and more than 50,000 other trees on the Ata Rangi Bush Block, a 130ha, partly DOC-covenanted area of land adjacent to the Aorangi Forest Park in South Wairarapa. He has also founded and is Chairman of the Aorangi Restoration Trust which has formed a unique partnership amongst a diverse group of stakeholder to improve biodiversity, while maintaining opportunities for hunting and recreation. In addition, he is on the Board of Pukaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre.

Anne Lawrence, chair of the Wellington Conservation Board, describes Mr Paton as “a real mix of vision and action. One minute he’ll be outlining a big, bold idea for how things can be in thirty years’ time, and the next he’ll be setting possum traps or penguin nesting boxes down on the coast,” she says.

Mr Paton’s efforts had earlier been recognised with being received as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2012. But neither that nor the Loder Cup are suggestions to him that his work is now done. “Making real progress in conservation demands as much, if not more, tomorrow than it did today,” he said, “so best I get on with it.”

“I’m grateful for the recognition of the Loder Cup award, and for the support of the key people around me, but mostly I hope that any attention this gets will be an encouragement to others to get involved in their local conservation programmes,” he added.