Our People

The Wakatipu Reforestation Trust is the brainchild of Neill and Barbara Simpson.  Their hard work, over 15 years on Pigeon and Pig Islands restored once bare and weedy islands into a haven for native birds.  In 2013, inspired by this success, Neill and Barbara recruited support from several funding agencies, and founded the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust.

Our Trustees

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

Neill Simpson

Neill Simpson: Chairperson

Neill is a botanist/ecologist and acknowledged expert on native plants and the effects of exotic pests on their ecosystem. Neill has held many roles with DOC throughout New Zealand and, since retiring, consults privately on native planting.

Neill was awarded the Queens Service Medal for services to conservation and in 2015 his work, with Barbara, was recognised when they were joint winners of the Loder Cup.

Neill’s vision is for the Wakatipu area, or large parts of it, to be returned to its native cover providing a habitat for native birds. With Barbara he would like to see natives replacing exotics and a community that prioritises planting natives before exotics on their own land. He has created his own roadside native garden along Peninsula Rd to show off native plants. In his spare time he enjoys planting, reading, playing classical piano (once his hands have been washed) and occasional skiing.

Barbara Simpson

Barb is a retired teacher who is both passionate and knowledgeable about NZ botany.  She has introduced thousands of children to our natural world through successful school and community volunteer programmes. Her work in conservation was recognised when she and Neill were awarded the Loder Cup.

Barb has also supported the Wakatipu High School Branches Camp for over 35 years as the “Queen of Camp Cuisine” and recently established wetland planting as a camp activity. She has formed lifelong bonds with many of these students, some of whom have in turn joined her on native reforestation planting missions.

Barb works closely with both the Nursery and Education sub-committees within the trust. At home, her property is full of native plants and birds, and sits alongside an impressive vegetable garden.

Ben Teele

Benjamin Teele

Ben is an Archaeologist based in Arrowtown with a detailed knowledge of the area’s history and archaeological provenance. He has a keen amateur interest in native biodiversity, and is involved with several other local conservation groups: Predator Free Arrowtown, Wakatipu Beech Seeding Project, Arrowtown Wilding Group.

Ben works closely with the Nursery and Sites & Maintenance sub-committees within the trust.

Ben came to New Zealand from the United States at a young age and spent his family holidays in the Wakatipu 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.

Jill Hodgson

Jill Hodgson

Jill is a teacher and has been involved with environmental education and sustainability for over 20 years. She has a strong belief in teaching children about respecting the environment in all its forms. She is currently working with Shotover Primary, restoring the wetlands near the Shotover/Kawarau river confluence, increasing the number of natives within the school, teaching the pupils how to grow native plants from seed, and propagate from plants that are flourishing in the wetlands. Jill works closely with the Education sub-committee within the trust.

Jill comes from a strong gardening family and is enjoying learning more about the plants from this region and how to bring them into her own garden.

Blair Devlin

An interest in sustainable development led Blair to study town planning at Otago University and he is now a local planning consultant. He has worked across private practice, local government and central government, in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Blair drives the Advocacy strand of the trust’s strategic plan and has also been involved with the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Group.

He has a young family, 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

Peter Blanshard: Treasurer

Peter is a chartered accountant with a career in investment banking and insurance. On retirement he moved to the Wakatipu Basin and in his role as treasurer is responsible for financial oversight of the trust’s activities.

Peter has a keen interest in biodiversity and the health of the countryside and found a group of enthusiastic and like-minded people in the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust. He has always enjoyed outdoor activities like cycling, tramping and gardening and at the end of the day likes to relax with a good book, a good wine and a piece of classical music.

Christina Shaw: Minutes Secretary

Christina has a background in information systems and technology. In this role she provides administrative support for trustee meetings. Christina has a keen interest in gardening, both ornamental and productive, and hopes to use the knowledge gained from working with the trust to establish a mini native planting corridor on her own property close to Lake Hayes.


Hannah Battrick: Youth Advisor

Hannah is a member of the Generation Give youth philanthropy programme where she has learnt about governance of non-profit organisations and the importance of being involved in her community. She has always had a keen interest in biodiversity and the local environment and a visit to the Jean Malpas nursery rekindled that love of nature. In her role as Youth Advisor, she brings a youth perspective to the Wakatipu Reforestation Trust.

Hannah attends Wakatipu High School and is involved in the school Community and Service Council as well as the Wakatipu Youth Council and the Wakatipu Impact100 group. She is a high-achieving student with a strong community spirit who is looking forward to making a difference in the future. She has a passion for the outdoors and is an avid runner and kayaker.

Our Staff

The Trust has three part time staff, who oversee the day to day operations and co-ordinate volunteer workgroups.

Karen O'Donahoo

Karen O’Donahoo: Operations Manager

Before making Queenstown her home, Karen worked as a project controller on large scale construction projects in Western Australia. She brings impeccable organisational skills to her role managing the day to day operations of the trust. Karen works with the nursery and sites & maintenance sub-committees within the trust and manages relationships with the many external stakeholders.

Karen has a love of nature, the outdoors and the environment and has travelled and tramped extensively. She was an early adopter of organic food in response to a belief that overuse of chemicals and pesticides was polluting the planet.

Karen is developing her own vegetable and native garden at her Kelvin Peninsula property. She enjoys walking her two dogs around the peninsula while marvelling at the Tuis singing in the Kowhai trees.

You can contact Karen at: volunteer@wrtqt.org.nz.

Jo Smith

Jo Smith: Education Officer

Jo has held various roles with DOC including with the DOC Youth Development Programme and the National Biodiversity Monitoring Programme. She has been lucky to have worked in some very remote areas and offshore islands. She is a plant enthusiast with a particular soft spot for alpine vegetation.

Jo believes that by increasing knowledge through narrative and experiential learning we can narrow the gap between humanity and nature. In her spare time Jo enjoys gardening, biking, and all things outdoors and has a love of visual arts.

You can contact Jo at: educate@wrtqt.org.nz.

Barbara Horrell: Nursery Manager

Barbara has a background in Horticulture, Landscaping and Botany. She has worked for DOC on their Protected Natural Areas Programmes at Molesworth Station and in the Lindis, Pisa and Dunstan Area. In her student days, at Otago University, she was an active member of the Native Forests Action Council and is passionate about the protection of our native vegetation.

Barbara’s work behind the scenes at the nursery ensures that nursery volunteer sessions and community planting days can run smoothly. Barbara is an avid gardener herself, and lover of the outdoors.

You can contact Barbara at: nursery@wrtqt.org.nz.