John Easton Award

From its inception in 1976 until June 2022, the John Easton Award was administered by the Hawke’s Bay Orchid Society. Later in 2022, the Orchid Council of New Zealand accepted responsibility for the award, which was donated by Andy Easton, born in Hawke’s Bay but in 1976 living in Eugene, Oregon in the United States, and named in honour of his father. The award made annually, if there is a suitable candidate, is for the most outstanding contribution to the culture and promotion of orchids in New Zealand. Only members of OCNZ-affiliated societies are eligible. Before 2022 nominations for the award were made by individual societies; in 2022 and after the award will be made at the discretion of the Executive Council of the OCNZ.

John Easton was not an orchidist, but inspired his son to become a professional orchid grower and supported him through his botany degree in New Zealand and at graduate school in the US. Andy Easton continues: “He went to Waitaki Boys’ High School (Oamaru) and always reminded me that his maths teacher there, Arnold Nordmeyer, who went on to become the Finance Minister in a Labour Government, was the smartest person he had ever known! My Dad did not make old bones, sadly he died in 1975 at only 62 years old. He did get to travel with my Mother and visited us in Eugene, Oregon where I was managing a 29-acre greenhouse operation growing roses, orchids, gardenias and stephanotis. He teased me by asking if they paid me to do the job … I assured him that they paid me very generously and he replied that with my love of plants, he was sure I’d do it all for free!”

2022 John Easton Award: Chris Hubbert

Chris Hubbert was involved in orchid culture as a hobby from the early 1980s, becoming interested after visiting a show in Takapuna, Auckland. He developed a special interest in Paphiopedilums, making some crosses of his own, and was a driving force in the NZ Paph Alliance, as well as being a member of the NZ Odontoglossum Alliance. In the mid-1990s Chris became interested in judging orchids and went on to become an accredited judge in three systems: Orchid Council of New Zealand (from 1999); from 2003 in the Cymbidium Society of New Zealand (previously the NZ branch of CSA); and with the New Zealand Orchid Society.

Chris was the Northern Regional Judging Group chair from 2008-2020, and chair of the Committee on Awards (COA) in 2021 and 2022. Besides being very good at writing award descriptions and assisting in the preparation of award descriptions for the OCNZ Yearbook, he also became a very good award photographer and supplied many photos to the Yearbook. In October 2022, the COA elevated Chris to Senior Judge in recognition of his outstanding service and dedication. 

For many years Chris was a key person in the North Shore Orchid Society, including being editor of Insigne, the society newsletter, for 28 years, and as a long-serving committee member.  Earlier in 2022, North Shore president Peter Jenner presented Chris with the President’s trophy for his outstanding service to the society.

Chris joined the OCNZ Executive in 2015 as Treasurer, a position he held until late 2022; and in 2017 became the OCNZ webmaster, again retiring in 2022.

In his working life Chris had been a lawyer, and from about 1973 was a partner in Jackson Russell Lawyers for 41 years. The attention to detail that his legal training and work engendered was much appreciated by the orchid community. Chris was a keen traveller, both for ‘holiday’ and to see orchid shows and orchids in their native habitats, including Antarctica and the sub-Antarctic islands, and Hawaii, Argentina, Brazil and Australia. Chris died on December 17, 2022.

The John Easton Award. Photo: Hawke’s Bay Orchid Society

Winners of the John Easton Award:

1977  A H Blackmore                           1996  R G Tomlinson                                2015  Lee & Roy Neale                                
1978  T P French                                    1997  J B Irwin                                           2016  Clive Perry         
1979  G Fuller                                          1998  Lyn Sherlock                                  2017  Martin Bonham              
1980  H J Poole, OBE                           1999  Alan Gray                                         2018  Margaret Harper              
1981  G G & P A Boon                           2000  Graham Jackson                          2022  Chris Hubbert               
1982  E T Bartosh                                  2001  Ray Dix                                     
1983  I D James                                      2002  Kath Bruce                                          
1984  W Ross-Taylor                             2003  Joy Wray                                         
1985  R L Maunder                                2004  M Liddell                                         
1986  Des Leahy                                     2005  R Marshall                                          
1987 F A Ballard                                     2006  Ross MacDonald, QSM
1988  C Scott                                           2007  Joe Vance
1989  S Wray                                            2008  Cliff & Ruth Coles
1990  G L A Day                                       2009  Ray Albiston
1991  M M Gibbs                                     2010  Gary Cooke
1992  Ken Christie                                 2011  Bill Liddy
1993  Roy Clareburt                              2012  Barbara Johnson
1994  Franz Brljevich                           2013  Grahame Hill
1995  Patricia Elms                               2014  Annette Gillan