Meet the Team
Our team of superstars make our work possible, and without them we wouldn’t have achieved all the awesome things we have over the years.
“Being part of the MOWS team is a true blessing. The variety of work I get to do on a daily basis is exciting. I enjoy doing weed and pest control the most and seeing the difference this is making to the environment is truly rewarding. As I progress in my role as a field worker for MOWS, I am also looking forward to learning more about monitoring birds, invertebrates, and dunes for changes”.
– Awhina Awhimate – Biodiversity and Conservation Officer
Julian Fitter – Chairman
Julian is a naturalist, conservationist, writer and lecturer with a particular interest in New Zealand wildlife and island ecosystems. Educated in the UK, Julian spent 15 years in the Galapagos Islands where he established and ran the first yacht charter operation.
Since moving to New Zealand Julian has become an ambassador for native wildlife, being involved in many aspects of conservation in the country, and the driving force behind Maketu Ongatoro Wetland Society. He was instrumental in establishing Bay Conservation Alliance, an umbrella organization linking conservation groups together and giving them extra support in order to assist them in their work. Julian recently stepped down as Operations Manager for MOWS, but still overseas external contract work.
Energetic and passionate about the cause, Julian is always on the go, and can rarely be found sitting down!
Biosecurity and Biodiversity Team
Our biosecurity and biodiversity team is comprised of hard-working ecologists and conservationists whose primary aim is to protect, conserve and enhance the natural environment.
Jenn Sheppard – Operations Manager and Principal Ecologist
Jenn is a skilled ecologist with 10 years of experience leading and planning ecological projects and conducting robust ecological statistical analyses. Jenn has conducted field research over the past 15 years in a range of habitats and on a variety of species, particularly on waterfowl and shorebirds.
As Operations Manager she manages and coordinates biosecurity and ecological restoration activities. Previous to this role, Jenn was the Biodiversity Officer for MOWS and still carries out monitoring of dotterels and other nesting birds, conducting skink and invertebrate surveys, and measuring vegetation throughout the dunes.
Jenn is also part of the Education team and a MOWS committee member. Jenn enjoys spending time with her family, diving, gardening, tramping, and fishing.
Laura Rae – Biosecurity and Restoration Team Leader
Laura is an avid conservationist and is very passionate about the environment. She has lived in Maketu for over 30 years and began working for MOWS in 2018 after completing a certificate in Horticulture at Toi Ohomai. Laura is highly experienced in pest plant and animal control, and is the site manager of Te Huauri o Te Kawa; a whitebait spawning wetland that hosts up to 6 species of whitebait.
Laura also serves as a MOWS committee member and education officer, and enjoys teaching local kids about nature and conservation practices.
When not working hard to conserve the environment, Laura can be found spending time with her 3 children, fulfilling duties as an elected member of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council, or picking up rubbish along our local beaches.
Awhina Awhimate – Biodiversity and Conservation Officer
Awhina joined MOWS in 2020 and works alongside Laura to assist with our wetland and and dune restoration projects across all our sites. Awhina’s background is in adminstration, however, a passion for ecological restoration and a keen interest in biodiversity led her to study Conservation Operations at Toi Ohomai in 2020. There she gained valuable skills and experience in the use of quads and LUVs, operating and maintaining chainsaws, the safe use of agrichemicals (Growsafe), pest animal and plant control, track maintenance, ecology, conservation management planning, maintaining personal and public health and safety, teamwork and heaps more.
Awhina is a descendent of the Te Arawa waka and has strong whakapapa connections to Ngāti Makino, Ngāti Pikiao, Te Awhe and Ngāti Whakahemo. In her spare time she enjoys spending time with whanau and long bush or beach walks to re-centre and ground herself.
Raven Nicholas – Biosecurity and Restoration Ranger
Raven began volunteering for MOWS in early 2021 and found her passion for the restoration of our native flora and fauna. In July 2021 she completed the Jobs for Nature cadetship with Bay Conservation Alliance where she gained many skills and certifications including flora and fauna identification, first aid outdoors, chainsaw handling, LUV licence, predator trapping, Growsafe, and ecological monitoring. As MOWS newest employee, she is excited to work with Laura and Awhina helping to restore the Mauri of the whenua and waterways around Maketu.
Raven is married with 4 tamariki and lives in Maketu. She has whakapapa links to Te Arawa as Ngāti Whakaue and Ngāti Pikiao, just to name a few. Her hobbies include netball, swimming, and whatever her children need to grow. Raven’s children keep her very busy, but they are worth it and she is determined to do anything in her power to sustain and restore what we have so that our tamariki and future generations are able to prosper.
Our educators deliver a range of ecology and conservation topics to local school kids. The education team is also supported by the biosecurity and biodiversity team (all of who are educators) and the support team.
Janie Stevenson – Secretary and Education Officer
Janie grew up in Mount Maunganui and currently resides in Maketu with her young whānau. After studying, Janie travelled widely and then came home to become a teacher. Janie has a background in environmental education, community engagement and facilitation, and has worked across the Bay of Plenty in education roles, with BOP Regional Council and NZ Landcare Trust.
Janie is the MOWS Secretary and Education Officer, coordinating and delivering school visits and field trips to our local, natural environments. Janie also works for Bay Conservation Alliance as the Education and Engagement Manager.
In the weekend, Janie is often found in the garden or at one of Maketu’s beautiful beaches with her kids, falling off a surfboard.
Our support team helps in all aspects of MOWS operations. Their tasks range from assisting the Biosecurity and Biodiversity team with pest control and monitoring, supporting the Education team, or serving as a Committee Member to help direct operations and make executive decisions.
Carolyn Symmans – Pest Control Officer and Educator
Carolyn is the most active person in the Maketu community! She is a member of Maketu Rotary, a Police Community Patrol Officer, and is involved with Predator Free NZ, Maketu Kaumatua Group, and St Thomas Church. Carolyn is passionate about wildlife, and as well as her involvement with MOWS, she also helps with restoration and predator control in Kotukutuku Gully, rescues and rehabilitates native birds, and is always picking up litter.
Carolyn has a background in showing dogs and has kept several different breeds over the years. She currently has a large pack of very well behaved chihuahuas which accompany her on her daily, early morning trap checks as Pest Control Officer for MOWS. She is also a member of the MOWS education team and teaches the children about the importance of controlling pest mammals in order to protect our native wildlife.
Peter Ellery – Wetland Restoration Ecologist
Peter’s connection with the environment started at a young age, when his father taught him how to hunt and fish, but also emphasised the importance of putting something back into the preservation and management of these resources.
Peter has a graduate diploma in applied science and has had a long involvement with sea fisheries management, which led him to embark on the restoration of an inanga spawning site on the Kaituna River known as the Borrow Pits. This has become an extremely successful project, now known as the Te Huauri o Te Kawa Wetland (THOTK). His experience as the previous wetlands manager of THOTK gave him the skills needed to design and construct 5 new wetlands throughout the Bay of Plenty.
Peter is also involved with Wai-kokopu, Kaituna Ongatoro/Maketu Estuary Strategy, the MOWS Education Program, and is currently participating in the Freshwater Futures, Kaituna, Community Group.
Maureen Binns – Educator
A born and bred Wellingtonian, Maureen moved to Maketu 17 years ago. She trained as a teacher and a librarian, and was a Chair and a member of the National Executive for Forest and Bird.
Maureen worked as a volunteer, bird banding on Matiu Somes Island and Mana Island, served on the Wellington Conservation, and chaired the Wellington Tenths Trust to set up the Matiu Somes Island Charitable Trust. She also lived and worked on Mangere Island with the Black robin, Forbes parakeets and Chatham Island oystercatchers.
In Maketu Maureen became a member of Maketu Rotary, was appointed to the East Coast Bay of Plenty Conservation Board, and is one of the founding members of MOWS, helping to set it up in 2008. Her main interest and passion is native birds, as well as working in the education team. Maureen now grows truffles in Paengaroa at Te Puke Truffles.
Claire Hartley – Website Manager and Membership Secretary
A UK expat with a degree in Zoological Conservation and a background in animal care, Claire is an avid conservationist. Back in the UK she was a marine mammal rescue volunteer, and has had a varied career including being a zookeeper, a farm park worker, and managing an exotic pet shop.
Claire was previously a field team member for MOWS assisting with ecological restoration, and has since retrained in website administration and social media, completing a Certificate in Web Design and Writing in order to manage the MOWS website. She was also on the Board for Bay Conservation Alliance before working for them for a year in an administration and website management role.
When not busy keeping her toddler entertained, Claire can be normally be found painting, horse riding, swimming, kayaking, or watching movies.
Tania Bramley – Past Education Officer
A self-employed environmental consultant, Tania is passionate about getting kids involved in conservation. For many years she was the Education Officer for MOWS, and was responsible for setting up and running our education program in the local schools. Tania believes the best way to get kids interested in the natural world is to get them out of the classroom and into the field, helping with planting, beach cleans and wildlife monitoring.
Tania recently relocated to the central North Island but remains a committee member and an integral part of MOWS with her wealth of knowledge.
When not working hard, Tania spends time with her husband and young son, as well as horse riding, and skiing.