Judging Panel

A panel of judges is responsible for reviewing applications to The Fund every May and determining which projects should be granted funding anf how this should be paid.

Our judges have expertise in the biology, ecology, governance, business, and Dunedin issues.


Professor Carolyn Burns

Carolyn is part of the teaching team at Otago University's Department of Zoology, specialising in freshwater ecology, particularly lakes (limnology). Her personal research interests include the effects of climate change and human impacts on the biodiversity, processes, conservation and management of lakes and wetlands; biological processes in lakes, particularly trophic interactions; microbial food webs; and plankton ecology.

Mayor Dave Cull

Dave Cull was born in Invercargill in 1950 and attended Southland Boys High School before moving to Dunedin. He completed a BA in Political Science at the University of Otago and worked part time as a teacher and in the building industry. 

After extensive travel around the world, he returned to Dunedin and commenced employment with TV One as a presenter of home improvement and DIY shows. He began writing in these areas as well and has published several books, on subjects as diverse as icebergs, weather and wine, and training manuals as well as writing for newspapers, magazines and radio. When his work no longer involved extensive travel, he took the opportunity to stand for the Dunedin City Council in 2007.

Once elected to the Council, Dave was appointed Deputy Chair of the Economic Development Committee where he was instrumental in the development of the Dunedin Digital Strategy. He believes that digital technology is part of the essential infrastructure of the 21st century.

Dave stood successfully as mayoral candidate in 2010.

Stuart McLauchlan

Stuart is the Managing Partner of GS McLauchlan & Co Business Advisors and Accountants and the Pro Chancellor of the University of Otago. A prominent local businessman with extensive governance experience, Stuart is a Director of Scott Technology, Scenic Circle Hotels Ltd, Dunedin International Airport Ltd, Dunedin City Holdings Ltd, Dunedin Casinos Ltd, Aurora Energy Ltd, AD Instruments Ltd, City Forests Ltd, Delta Utility Services Ltd and several other companies.

Gretchen Robertson

Gretchen is a Dunedin resident currently living in Andersons Bay. She represents the Dunedin Constituency on the Otago Regional Council where she chairs the Environmental Science Committee. After graduating from the University of Otago with an honours degree in Ecology, Gretchen worked as a water quality scientist with Wellington and Otago Regional Councils. Gretchen is currently employed with the NZ Landcare Trust. She manages integrated, community-led approaches to waterway management in both the Otago and Tasman Regions. Gretchen is passionate about Otago's environment and enjoys gardening, sea fishing, native plants, photography and painting.

Michael Stedman

NHNZ Managing Director Michael Stedman held senior positions in New Zealand and Australia's television production industry and worked a consultant to the United Nations before returning to Dunedin to accept the challenge of growing NHNZ internationally. The Natural History Unit (which evolved into NHNZ) has thirty years' experience telling stories about the natural world, and has played a significant role in raising awareness about many of New Zealand's endangered species and places. NHNZ also sponsors the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust, the Orokonui Eco-sanctuary and a number of other environmental groups.

Vanessa van Uden

Vanessa van Uden completed one term as a Councillor on the Queenstown Lakes District Council before standing successfully for the Mayoralty in 2010.  She is one of a select group of people in local government who has been both an elected representative and a staff member, having arrived in the Queenstown Lakes District in 1998 to take the position of Contracts Manager with the Council.  She was in this role for four years before establishing her own company, Admin and Business Solutions through which she provided a wide range of business services to companies throughout the district. 

Vanessa is involved in many community organisations.  She is a member of the St John Area Committee, a Trustee of the Queenstown Trails Trust and Branches Charitable Trust.  In 2012 she was a member of the Local Government Minister’s independent taskforce to help build greater efficiency within the local government framework.

Vanessa is married with two teenage daughters. 

Stephen Woodhead

Stephen and his wife Bronwyn are Sheep and Beef farmers at Lovells Flat in South Otago, they have three adult sons.

Stephen has been involved in a number of community organisations including a local Landcare group, he was elected to the Otago Regional Council in 2004 and is currently the chairperson. 


Nigel Smith (Convenor of Judges)

Nigel is the Lower South Island Regional Sales Manager for Lion based at Speight's Brewery, and leads a team spread from Timaru to Invercargill. Nigel is passionate about Dunedin and Speight's. In his capacity as Convenor of Judges, Nigel is responsible for calling and managing meetings of the judging panel.