In late 2012, two residents of the Upper Clutha area, Graeme Ballantyne and John Darby, entertained the idea of forming a Wanaka branch of the Royal Society of NZ (RSNZ). They were greatly encouraged and assisted in this endeavour by Dr Di McCarthy, then CEO of the RSNZ in Wellington. Di had witnessed the strong interest and enthusiasm of Wanaka audiences when she accompanied two Rutherford Fellow speakers in 2011 and 2012.
In February 2013, a core group comprising Dr Graeme Ballantyne, Dr Max Shepherd, John Darby, Russell McGeorge, and Trevor Savage formed a “committee”. It quickly settled on some objectives and a basic set of rules for a local branch. Later that month an agreement was signed with the Royal Society of NZ in Wellington (RSNZ), which declared the Wanaka Branch to be a Regional Constituent Organisation (RCO), effectively the 9th regional Branch of RSNZ.
On 1st March 2013, Professor Bryan Sykes from Oxford University gave the inaugural lecture, entitled I Met a Traveller from an Ancient Land: Interpreting the Past through DNA. It created considerable interest and precipitated a stream of membership applications. The preliminary rules were revised and adopted at a Special General Meeting of the Branch on 4th May 2013.
In keeping with the stated aims of RSNZ, the Branch seeks to promote, advance and support science, technology and the humanities in the Wanaka region. It aspires to do this by seeking out and inviting high calibre speakers on new, exciting and cutting-edge developments in these disciplines.
Founding Committee (2013-2015)
Dr. Graeme Ballantyne (President), Dr. Max Shepherd (Vice-President), Trevor Savage (Secretary), Russell McGeorge (Treasurer), John Darby, Jan Janata, Colin Boswell
2016-2017 – Dr Max Shepherd (President), Trevor Savage (Secretary), Russell McGeorge (Treasurer), John Darby, Heather Kerr, Dr Amy Ballantyne
2017-2018 – Dr Max Shepherd (President), Trevor Savage (Secretary), Russell McGeorge (Treasurer), John Darby, Heather Kerr, Dr Amy Ballantyne, Dr. Ian Hall,
2018-2019 – Dr Max Shepherd (President), Dr Amy Ballantyne (Vice President), Trevor Savage (Secretary), Emeritus Professor John Langley (Treasurer), Emeritus Professor Peter Herbison, Dr. Ian Hall, Dr.Maggie Evans
2019-2020 – Dr Amy Ballantyne (President), Dr Maggie Evans (Secretary), Professor John Langley (Treasurer), Christine Gardner, Ben Goddard, Emeritus Professor Peter Herbison, Ruth Harrison
2020-2021 – Dr Amy Ballantyne (President), Dr Maggie Evans (Secretary), Julie Perry (Treasurer), Nikki Cotter, Christine Gardner, Ben Goddard, Ruth Harrison, Dr Caroline Oliver (Vice President)