Welcome to Katherine Durman, new Chair of the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust

In taking on the position formerly held by 2024 Senior New Zealander of the Year Finalist and hugely impressive environmentalist Neill Simpson, Katherine Durman has big shoes to fill. However, as a climate action specialist with a track record in developing and leading impactful environmental programmes, she is more than up to the task.

Neill Simpson has stepped down as Chair of the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust, which he founded in 2013 with his wife Barb. At 90 years young, his decision is perhaps not surprising, but as anyone who knows Neill can testify, it doesn’t mean he will be bowing out altogether. He will continue as a trustee, lending his immense botanical expertise to our restoration work. There are whispers of another book in the works, but we will have to wait and see…

Neill and Barb Simpson have been well accoladed for their efforts in leading revegetation projects around Whakatipu Basin. Much of the restoration work could not have happened without their vision and energy. The Trust and wider community is hugely grateful for Neill’s long service and leadership.

Neill Simpson, finalist in Senior New Zealander of the Year 2024

Meet Katherine Durman

Neill Simpson and Katherine Durman cut the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust's tenth birthday cake

Katherine joined as a trustee a few months ago and sees it as a real privilege to be invited to continue Neill’s great work. As an innovative sustainability professional, she brings a strong background in environmental behaviour change and climate action to the position of Chair.

A former role at QLDC leading the Climate and Biodiversity Plan allowed her to see the wonderful work done by the community, and experience the WRT’s mahi up close. 

“I have long admired the trust’s kaupapa and been inspired by the fantastic people who put so much effort in the background into helping it thrive.”

With a small amount of botany in her biological sciences degree, Katherine is looking forward to learning more from the knowledgeable people around her. 

“I’m excited to support the trust to continue regenerating the Whakatipu, and inspire our rangatahi, community and visitors through nurturing and showcasing our native biodiversity.” 

Katherine is known for creating innovative approaches to help organisations instigate genuine action on climate change and biodiversity. In her current day job she working on the next Emissions Reduction Plan for Aotearoa with Manatū Mō Te Taiao (Ministry for the Environment).

A collaborative nature, as well as a high level understanding of project management and change implementation puts Katherine in excellent stead to lead our work. 

But most importantly, what is her favourite native plant?

“Tī kōuka, cabbage tree – I have a view of one from my desk at home in Fernhill and spend a lot of time looking at it for inspiration while I pause to think!”

We look forward to continuing our mission under Katherine’s skillful leadership and wholeheartedly welcome her to the Chair position.