Canterbury environmental consultant Mike Harding has been awarded the Loder Cup.
The prestigious conservation award recognises Harding’s contributions to native plant conservation from his decades of work protecting the South Island’s native flora.
Conservation Minister Willow-Jean Prime said Harding’s career in plant conservation spans more than 30 years and has been highly successful across a range of sectors both on the ground and at the policy level.
Following stints at the Department of Conservation and Forest and Bird in the late 1980s and early ’90s, Harding set up as an independent environmental consultant in 1993.
“Mike’s expertise, courage, professionalism, strategic thinking, dedication and ability to work with a wide range of people shone through in his nomination, which included nine letters of support. He has also put in countless hours of unpaid work to benefit New Zealand’s indigenous flora and is well deserving of the Loder Cup,” Prime said.
Harding was nominated for the Loder Cup by Forest and Bird, with supporting letters from nine parties, including representatives from the Christchurch City and Tasman District councils, environmental consultants, and the forestry industry.
“Of note is Mike’s extensive survey work to identify Significant Natural Areas for several councils, including more than 770 sites across more than 200 properties in the Timaru district and 138 sites in the Waitaki district, as well as sites in the Mackenzie Basin.
“Through this, Mike has shown an outstanding ability to work with private landowners to help them understand the special areas of habitat they have on their properties and build their support to protect them.”
Prime said Harding has led efforts to study and protect the “at risk” yellow alpine buttercup in Arthur’s Pass. His work determined the northern geographical limit of the species in the Hawdon River East Branch and identified the impacts of uncontrolled browsers on this vulnerable species.
“Mike continues to monitor and advocate for the buttercup and other high country plant species throughout the Waimakariri Basin and elsewhere in the high country.”
Harding has also made a significant difference in plant ecology by providing advice such as management plans, ecological assessments, protection strategies, weed assessment and control planning, Environment Court appearances and ecological assessments for tenure review.
“Mike has made a tangible difference to South Island plant conservation, and he is a worthy recipient of this year’s award.”