Former Department of Conservation (DOC) manager Stu Thorne was one of three Wānaka residents featured on this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours list, being awarded the Queen’s Service Medal (QSM) for 50 years of contribution to conservation and search and rescue.
Thorne (73) worked with the Department of Lands and Survey before starting his career with DOC as a ranger. During his tenure, he achieved outstanding results in eradicating the waterweed lagarosiphon major from Lake Wānaka, and helped reintroduce buff weka to the islands of Lake Wānaka in 2001 and the South Island robin to the West Matukituki Valley in 2008. The South Island robin population has since increased from 25 birds to approximately 400.
Thorne retired from DOC in 2010 after 40 years.
A long-time volunteer with the Matukituki Charitable Trust and DOC trapping and monitoring programmes, Thorne also played an instrumental role in assisting the establishment of the Upper Clutha Tramping Club and Te Kākano. - a not-for-profit organisation replanting native trees in the Upper Clutha area, for whom he still plays an active role on the committee and at weekend planting sessions.
From 1984 to 2014, Thorne was also a search and rescue police adviser in the Wānaka region and was involved in more than 150 search and rescue missions. He was a life member of the Wānaka Search and Rescue (Wānaka SAR) volunteer group and the New Zealand Mountain Safety Council, including a term as chairman.
Thorne said he was “very honoured and pleased” to be awarded the QSM, adding that he had “always worked with a great team of dedicated people” in all aspects of his career. He impressed that many of his achievements were a “team effort” and gave his “greatest thanks” to his wife Heather.
“[She has] had to keep the home and the family running smoothly while I’ve been away on my many absences doing conservation activities,” he told the Wānaka Sun.
Chairperson of the Wānaka SAR group Aaron Nicholson said: “The Wānaka SAR group is very proud of the recognition received by two of its members on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List. Both Stu Thorne, who is a retired life member of the Wānaka SAR group, and John Lamont ,who is an active incident management team member, received Queen's Service Medals for services to conservation, search and rescue and aviation respectively."
Read edition 977 of the Wānaka Sun here.