South Taranaki Community Awards
2023 Community Award recipients
A special ceremony, the 2023 South Taranaki Community Awards, was held at Hāwera’s Memorial Theatre on Wednesday 8 November to commemorate those individuals and groups who have made meaningful positive impacts on their communities.
These Awards are held every two years (with the exception of COVID) by the Mayor to recognise those who have by personal leadership, inspiration, sacrifice or devotion to a cause, made a significant contribution to the wellbeing of the District’s communities.
South Taranaki Mayor Phil Nixon presented Awards to individuals, organisations and three newly introduced Youth Citizens Awards.
“Three very deserving young people were given an inaugural Youth Citizen Award for their academic successes, sporting achievements, community involvement and arts or cultural achievements in their respective communities,” says Mayor Nixon. “I was very proud to recognise these outstanding young people who are working hard to make a difference.”
Mayor Nixon says the Community Awards are a small but significant way the community can honour those who continually give their time and commitment to improve the lives of others and the communities they live in.
“As Mayor it’s a privilege to present these awards to our quiet achievers who, without a fuss, just get on and make things happen. They thoroughly deserve this recognition for the contributions they have made to the lives of so many people,” says Mayor Nixon.
Congratulations to the very deserving:
Harry James – Taranaki/Coastal
Harry supports the community through his role in the Board Riders Club as President, giving surfing lessons in the summer and driving the Surfing for Farmers Club programme. Harry has been incredibly proactive in this role for 20 years and during this time he has encouraged and supported thousands of individuals to surf.
Through surfing Harry makes significant inroads into mitigating mental health issues, by offering outdoor activities in a safe, fun, beautiful environment. He has also been a huge advocate for special needs tamariki, going above and beyond to support their mana and wellbeing. Harry has introduced the ‘Excellence in Diversity’ award for neurodiverse learners.
Anyone suffering from trauma, loss of a loved one, or social and emotional adversity, Harry is the first one ready with either an incredibly generous koha, or ready to support in other practical, time heavy, ways.
More importantly however, Harry is trusted and admired … a humble, unsung hero in our community.
Gail Thorley – Taranaki/Coastal
Gail has been a volunteer worker on the Manaia Walkway for the last 30 years! She has helped develop the walkway behind the car park to the Golf Club and has always been there lending a helping hand. In fact, I believe she’s often there (at least two or three times a week) raking all of the fallen leaves off the track to make it a safer place for those using the track.
Zoe Kensington – Taranaki/Coastal
Zoe saw a need on the coast for a club that supports social sports for kids, teenagers and adults and so she started up the Coastline Sports Club. Zoe coaches netball, basketball and touch rugby, and runs skills and drills basketball sessions on behalf of Taranaki Thunder. She also runs an adults Get Fit class at Ōkato and Ōakura.
Becky Dodunski – Eltham-Kaponga
One day Becky made a comment on Facebook about the sad state of Soldiers Park, with no trees and plenty of weeds growing. She was quickly invited to join the Eltham Community Development Group to help with the Soldiers Park project, as the Eltham Community Development Group had struggled to make any headway with Soldiers Park.
Becky has been amazing! She has organised getting weeding and spraying done and helped apply for funding to purchase trees and make the planting happen.
Becky, with the support of the Eltham Community Development Group, organised a number of planting and weeding days with members of the community, school children and community groups. At this point over 2,000 native trees have been planted in Soldiers Park.
Becky has worked with people from Restore Taranaki, Taranaki Regional Council and the South Taranaki District Council on how best to solve the problem of invasive weeds at the park and has organised contractors to complete this.
Megan Peters – Te Hāwera
Megan would help anyone. She is on numerous community committees – and some of these clubs she doesn’t even participate in, but her family does. Megan is very good at organising events, she helps with fundraising, in the kitchen or behind the bar, she even does competition draws. It sounds like if there is a job to be done, Megan will be there.
Some of the clubs that Megan has been involved with over the years include the Manaia Bowling Club, the South Taranaki Club and the South Taranaki Club Fundraising Committee, Ōkaiawa Fire Brigade, West Coast Chartered Clubs, Manaia Fire Brigade Darts, and the Ōkaiawa Hall Committee.
Andrea Shepherd – Te Hāwera
Andrea is an integral part of the Rotokare Sanctuary project. Her positive attitude, skills, reliability and team-player approach are what make her a brilliant volunteer and helps form the success of Rotokare and pest elimination on Taranaki Maunga and it is conservatively estimated that Andrea has volunteered over 6,500 volunteer hours since 2016 to the Rotokare project.
Andrea is a human dynamo. What she lacks in size, she makes up for in energy, persistence and tenacity. She has made a huge personal commitment to restoring the sound and movement of our Taranaki wildlife and our region is all the better for her huge contribution.
Andrea volunteers at least three full days every week at Rotokare Scenic Reserve, rain, hail or shine. She has been doing this from when she first moved to South Taranaki in 2016. She is always keen to introduce others to the sanctuary and is a great advocate of the volunteer programme.
Andrea is a true community pillar and an inspiration to others.
Paul Mackle – Te Hāwera
Paul is an integral member of the Rotokare Scenic Reserve volunteer team. He is very much an “in the background” achiever. Progress on the many projects at the reserve and routine hard physical mahi is made so much easier when Paul is involved.
Paul started volunteering at Rotokare in 2016 in response to a call for help in the local paper. Paul is there every week, when his full time shift work allows. He is often found doing the tasks that others can’t, or won’t, do. This is usually hard physical grafting work attending to the infrastructure in the reserve.
Paul maintains tracks, boardwalks and structures to keep visitors safe, undertakes fence maintenance and fence platform maintenance. He was a key volunteer in building the Bush Classroom that was completed and opened in June this year. He maintains operational shelters, and services operational machinery and tools.
Paul also volunteers for the critical checks that must be done weekly to maintain biosecurity and the pest-free sanctuary – he walks one third of the 8.2 fence line to check for any deterioration or damage to the fence, or potential risk to the fence platform, he also checks and re-baits traps.
Patina Edwards – Te Hāwera
Patina has shown outstanding leadership as the Chair of Taranaki Timebank for the past 3 years. This has been in a voluntary capacity with great personal, financial and career sacrifice. She has acted not only as Chair, but managed the majority of operational requirements, at times putting in over 40 hours a week.
Taranaki Time Bank, like many organisations, was on the brink of closure during and after the COVID pandemic. Patina continued to push on during this time with very limited assistance and looked outside the box to create online engagements with members.
Patina has shown outstanding resilience and leadership while also recognising and encouraging skills of others. There’s no doubt that Taranaki Time Bank and its valuable community involvement would have ceased without her tireless efforts.
Jillian Williams – Te Hāwera
Jill has been convenor for more than 15 years of Hāwera Genealogy Group and also been on the NZ Society of Genealogy. She ensures that the history of South Taranaki and its families are in the fore-front and not missed out. She spends numerous hours assisting locals and those afar with genealogical research. She has extensive knowledge of local families and places which she shares willingly.
Jill continues to find new ways to record information for others to access, eg, Folders for Hāwera Streets with information gathered from a wide range of sources on the homes, residents and businesses.
Jill also spear-headed the cemetery gardening and the installation of the map showing where graves are located.
Jill is also a member of the Friends of Hāwera Parks, and a volunteer at the Lysaght Watt Gallery.
Don and Trish Adams – Pātea
For a few years Trish and Don commuted between Wellington and Pātea, using their Kent Street home in Pātea as a holiday home, until this year when they decided to move back here permanently. Since they started coming back here a few years ago, they immersed themselves in the community of Pātea.
Trish joined the Pātea Old Folks Hall committee and is an active member, doing a lot of volunteer work there. She has also started a volunteer gardening group in Pātea, doing many of the Council gardens and other areas like the Skate Park.
Pātea Beach is a place where Don spends a lot of time and took it upon himself to restore and repaint all the signage in that area. Since this has been completed they have restored and repainted the Pātea Skate Park, and Don has also stripped and oiled all the timber bench seats in Pātea. Don is currently making repairs to the old concrete ticket booth and entrances gates at the Pātea Domain which will be ready for painting soon. When Don sees something that needs doing in Pātea, he gets it done.
Trish and Don are the kind of people every town needs. They have a lot of pride in the town and are not afraid of getting stuck in to make it a better place.
Denis and Colleen Smith - Pātea
Colleen and Denis came to Waverley to enjoy their retirement years in a small country town. Once here, they both quickly immersed themselves into the community. Colleen and Denis do not do things as individuals, they do things together.
The local Baptist Church has had the advantage of having Colleen and Denis as members especially with them both being heavily involved with the set-up of a senior citizen monthly luncheon. They prepared and cooked the meals at a minimal cost for anyone in the community wishing to attend, mostly being paid out of the Smith’s own pocket where needed. This was put on hold due to the pressures of COVID and the restrictions enforced upon them.
They joined the Waverley Bowling Club, being active members also having held executive positions. A short time later after approaching the club, they then initiated the cooking of Friday night meals for people in the community to attend. This has turned into a great financial boost for the club. These meals have now become a very regular gathering at a small cost to the attendees with the last Friday of every month being a roast meal. On average 50 to 60 customers attend these dinners and enjoy a night off cooking for most and it’s also a nice quiet evening for the elderly and not so elderly to enjoy.
Despite both Colleen and Denis approaching elderly status, also having endured health issues, they have just kept on going doing various voluntary work for the community. Denis is a member of the Waverley Lions and Colleen is a member of the Country Women’s Institute.
Colleen and Denis are true community heroes and Waverley is so much richer, socially, for having them both in our community.
Ōpunakē Athletics Club – Taranaki/Coastal
Ōpunakē Athletics Club has been running since 1964 – that’ll be 60 years next year! I wonder if there is anyone still around in our community who first joined the Club way back then as youngsters?
The Ōpunakē Athletics Club, like any other sporting club, is run by volunteers – and usually the parents of the children that are participating. Over the years the Club has helped lots of children develop not only physical skills but their social skills as well.
It is a massive achievement for the whole community to have this Club going after almost 60 years, and we thank the dedication of those who not only run the Club from an official point of view, but I’d also like to acknowledge the parents who do help out on a regular basis.
Kiddylandz Toy Library – Volunteers - Te Hāwera
The team at Kiddylandz work hard to create a fun indoor play space that is free and open to all caregivers of children under five. Providing support, connection, access to quality resources and free coffee to create a valued haven for parents and caregivers alike. Each week the group is hosted by three to four volunteers, and externally supported by three local social care providers to provide access to counselling, parenting support, legal advice and practical needs like clothing, bedding and toys.
Rosalie Terry leads the team, who, as a volunteer, coordinates the other volunteers, organises the loan of the toys and equipment to families. Monique Avery, Ruth Baird and Kayne Barron set up the space and welcome each of the families as they arrive, introduce new families to other group members, and assist group users to access extra support when required or requested.
What sets this group apart from other parents’ groups is the active way the volunteers engage with group users to not just feel connected, but by empowering them to connect other local services that can meet their practical and wellbeing needs so that they thrive in their parenting skills.
Friends of Hāwera Parks – Te Hāwera
The Friends of Hāwera Parks have been nominated for their outstanding dedication and enthusiasm in the beautification and maintenance in many of our town’s green spaces, from weekly voluntary gardening sessions at King Edward Park, the cemetery or Goodson Dell, to holding workshops to support pest control at Naumai Park.
This team deserves recognition and appreciation for their amazing hard work!
Thank you to all members of the Friends of Hāwera Parks, you just have to look at our parks to see what amazing mahi you all do.
Taranaki Health Shuttle / Hāwera St John – South Taranaki District
The volunteers in this group are very dedicated and supply great support to our community. It complements the other great services which supply transport.
The Health Shuttle supports the community who can’t use the other services because the clients are medical or transport disadvantaged. These volunteers are able to assist people to be independent as well.
This service started on 1 April 2014 to assist people in our community who have difficulty getting to medical appointments because of health or mobility problems. The shuttle team collects clients from their home and transports them to their appointments at medical centres, hospitals and specialist appointments. This group has clients in Manaia, Kaponga, Eltham, Stratford and Hāwera. The volunteers are dedicated to ensure people can make their appointments and to return home safely, they also make sure that the client is settled back inside their home. The team certainly go the extra mile for their clients.
Currently the shuttle team consists of a small group of volunteers and most of them have been with the service since it started in 2014. It is a self-directed team who manage the bookings, arrange their own rosters, promote the shuttle service, prepare a monthly report for the Area Committee and reconcile the shuttle donations for the Area Committee Treasurer. This group is strongly supported by the St John Hāwera Area Committee. This service relies on donations from clients, public, and fundraising. Although the clients are offered $5 per trip, the volunteers have all opted not to update that entitlement and therefore this stays in the shuttle fund.
St John uses a Volkswagen vehicle which had given the team the advantage to offer transport to people that are in wheelchairs to their appointments. They also have been able to offer a wellbeing to families that haven’t been able to have loved ones to a family event due to mobility and transport issues.
The success of the Health Shuttle service is because of the dedication of these volunteers. They supply a great service and are a very valuable division of the St John Hāwera group.
Ebony Kalin – Te Hāwera
Ebony was nominated by Rachel Williams and is an Academic Leader at Te Paepae o Aotea.
Ebony has exceptional enterprise and business qualities as well as outstanding leadership skills.
After presenting to South Taranaki District Council’s Policy and Strategy Committee, Ebony developed and executed business and marketing strategies to develop the purpose, structure and operating processes of a new youth committee, Empower Youth of which she is the Chair. Ebony has fostered an inclusive and collaborative culture where diverse ideas are welcomed.
Ebony is an exemplary young leader and Empower Youth will make a lasting positive impact.
Arna Bright – Taranaki/Coastal
Arna attends Ōpunakē High School and was nominated by Andrea Hooper.
Arna is an outstanding role model for not only sporting excellence, but persistence, hard work, whanaungatanga, kotahitanga and aroha. She has represented the kura, rohe, region and nation of Aotearoa in basketball, but is also an outstanding soccer player. She supports others to be the best version of their sporting selves and has truly exemplary fair play ethics. Arna is a true elite athlete and is passionate about encouraging others to gain the benefits of sport. She advocates everything from Javelin through to Cross Country. She has undoubtedly changed young lives by pushing her own boundaries in a multiplicity of sporting endeavours.
Harry Gibson – Eltham/Kaponga
Harry attends Ōpunakē High School and was nominated by Andrea Hooper.
Harry is an outstanding role model for not only sporting excellence, but persistence and hard work. Harry is also incredibly talented in rugby, hockey, soccer and adventure racing.
But more important than all of these skills, is the time, energy and compassion Harry gives to others, especially the younger tamariki. He supports others to be the best version of their sporting selves and has truly exemplary fair play ethics. Harry is a true elite athlete and is passionate about encouraging others to gain the benefits of sport. Harry lives and breathes kindness and has been a change maker for good in our kura and the rohe. He is always in the playground encouraging our juniors to join in with games, sports and other activities.
Harry also supports the vulnerable in the community by assisting Kaponga Lions Club with wood chops, sorting donated glasses being sent to Pacific Islands, and sorting can tabs for the Kan Tab project for Kidney Kids. Harry has assisted Ōpunakē High School with walkway loop planting, fundraising for cancer and maintenance at the Ōpunakē Rest Home, and laying flooring at Sinclair’s events centre for celebrations and tangi. Harry is a young man of mana and humility.
The South Taranaki Community Awards are held every two years by the Mayor to recognise individuals or organisations within the South Taranaki district, who have by personal leadership, inspiration, sacrifice or devotion to a cause, made a significant contribution to the wellbeing of the communities in the Taranaki Coastal, Eltham-Kaponga, Te Hāwera or Pātea Community Board areas.