'Rat lady' awarded QSM in Queen's Birthday Honours

Judith Jane Gilbert has been awarded the QSM for conservation.
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Judith Jane Gilbert has been awarded the QSM for conservation.

Decades of work in pest management have resulted in the award of a Queen's Service Medal to Judith Jane Gilbert for conservation.

Judy Gilbert moved to Gt Barrier Island, in the Hauraki Gulf, in 1994 after living in Devonport, Auckland where she was a member of a conservation group.

It was called the Cheltenham Beach Caretakers, responsible for the conservation of dwindling shellfish there.

Judy Gilbert said husband Scott Macindoe was her main supporter.
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Judy Gilbert said husband Scott Macindoe was her main supporter.

But on Gt Barrier there was an overabundance problem - of rats.

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Gilbert said it was commonplace to have the creatures entering houses and creating havoc.

Judy Gilbert with field worker Dean Medlands, taking traps out into the sanctuary in 2003.
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Judy Gilbert with field worker Dean Medlands, taking traps out into the sanctuary in 2003.

"I was astounded by what I caught."

So in 1999, she set up a pest management project and formed the Windy Hill Rosalie Bay Catchment Trust in 2000 to get funding.

"The Department of Conservation has been a financial supporter right from the early days and provides good, technical support," Gilbert said.

"The former Auckland Regional Council and its chairman, Mike Lee, offered really good support as well.

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"But the most has come from my husband, Scott."

Windy Hill is a 770 hectare land collective, some of it QEII covenanted, and the trust employs five staff who were nearly all on benefit previously.

Gilbert works for nothing, running the trust and conservation programmes as well as helping out practically.

"I'm known as 'the rat lady'," she said.

"Because we don't have possums and mustelids, rats reign supreme."

Gilbert said over the years new types of traps had become available and the trust aimed to focus on the latest technology.

Her dedication to pest management has seen her attending conferences and updating her learning at every opportunity.

"It's been a wonderful journey," she said.

"I've learned an extraordinary amount and know so many people."

She most recently attended the scientific Crazy and Ambitious Predator Free NZ 2050 conference in Wellington, led by Conservation Minister Maggie Berry.

Gilbert said she was committed to working on Barrier's pest management project for a further two years and then there would be a review with landowners about continuing.

She said there was someone she had in mind to take over some of her role but "I think I'll be committed till I drop".

Gilbert said being awarded the QSM had been a surprise.

"I really appreciate the acknowledgement of the sustained effort I've put in but feel slightly embarrassed.

"There are lots of people out there doing great stuff."

 - Stuff

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