Two Queenstowners, an international climate scientist and an eminent ecologist and botanist, are blown away to have been named semi-finalists in the latest Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards which attracted thousands of nominations.
One of the world’s first scientists to blow the whistle on climate change, 48 years ago, Dr Jim Salinger’s made the final 10 for the prestigious NZer of the Year category.
The 76-year-old’s also one of 10 semi-finalists in the senior NZer of the year category alongside Neill Simpson, who’s still active as a conservation consultant, never mind he turned 90 in August.
In an interesting twist, the pair live close to each other in Kelvin Heights and Jim’s partner, Kirsty Sharpe, is a cousin of Neill’s wife, Barb.
Metaphorically, Jim — whose honours include being lead author for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change when it won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 — says he fell over on hearing the news.
‘‘I feel pretty humbled.
‘‘In a sense, it makes all the years I’ve talked about climate change, since 1975, worth it.’’
He also thinks it’s timely given the warnings English TV presenter Chris Packham’s issuing, in a mini-series called Earth, the human species is at the crossroads due to climate change.
Humbled: Senior NZer of the Year semi-finalist Neill Simpson
Speaking at the weekend, Neill was still getting over the news of his shortlisting.
‘‘It’s a great honour, I can’t imagine myself in that position.’’
He’s been active in Queenstown as a conservationist since the ’80s.
He and Barb founded the Whakatipu Islands Reforestation Trust that, over 15 years, turned Pigeon and Pig Islands into havens for native birds, following disastrous fires.
Ten years ago, the couple also founded the Whakatipu Reforestation Trust which oversees the planting of at least 10,000 native trees a year.
Following another judging round, three finalists in each category will be announced in February, followed by the awards finals in March.