Greymouth Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

7 Dec 2016

West Coast Local Hero Ceremony
West Coast Local Hero Ceremony

7th December 2016

Greymouth Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

Everyday people doing exceptional things were the toast of the town last night as the West Coast honoured its very own “Local Heroes”.

As part of the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards, the 16 winners of the Local Heroes category were presented with their awards last night at a special medal presentation ceremony held at Shanty Town.

Grey District Council Mayor Tony Kokshoorn was on hand to present the medals. He congratulated the recipients on their award and said that it was vital that the community continued to acknowledge the contributions they have made.

“Many of these medal winners are unsung heroes whose selflessness has had a profound effect on the lives of so many in the community. Those acts of charity, optimism and commitment are the glue that hold a community together and as a community we must stand alongside one another and give thanks for their efforts,” he said.

The recipients of the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards for the West Coast were:

Don Neale

Sue Asplin

Mary Howden

Wayne Costello

Nick Meissel

Merv Grewar

Rob Daniel

Anne Daniel

Fiona Pollard

Debbie Forbes

Athol Olsen

Vern Abbott

Lyall Delore

Claire Bryant

Paul Maunder

Tim Moreton

The Kiwibank Local Hero awards are now New Zealand’s premier community award and give thanks to those providing a positive contribution to their region, town, suburb or community. Nearly 350 medals will be presented nationwide during November and December.

Kiwibank CEO, Paul Brock, said that Kiwibank was proud to be supporting local communities celebrate their outstanding citizens over the past eight years.

“New Zealand has a long-standing tradition of community service. It’s therefore equally important that we have a tradition, like the Local Heroes Awards, where we can give our thanks to those who have improved the lives of others in their communities.”

The 2017 New Zealander of the Year Awards are presented in six award categories. The overall winner for each category will be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala in February 2017.

In December, the judging panel - comprising representatives of all the awards patrons, presenters, sponsors, community leaders and independent experts - will announce the 10 semi-finalists for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year and supporting categories.

The categories are:

• The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year

• The Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year

• The University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year

• The Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year

• The Sanitarium New Zealand Innovator of the Year

• The Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year

Media contact:

Nicky Barton, 0273 060603

For images and further details on the recipients:

Glyn Taylor, New Zealander of the Year Awards, 021 671799,

Photo caption:

Back row: Nick Meissel; Don Neale; Tim Moreton, Grey District Mayor Tony Kokshoorn

Middle row: Dianna Taylor (Kiwibank); Vern Abbott; Lyall Delore; Wayne Costello; Rob Daniel; Paul Maunder; Merv Grewer

Front row: Athol Olsen; Sue Asplin; Fiona Pollard; Mary Howden; Anne Daniel; Debbie Forbes

Absent: Claire Bryant

West Coast’s Local Heroes

Don Neale and Sue Asplin (Hokitika)

Don and Sue are a generous husband and wife team who have been involved in the local community for many years, contributing across many areas of the West Coast.

Sue currently works at the local Hokitika Museum as the photograph and research curator. Within the community she works for the Hokitika Dramatic Society, is a tutor at the Children’s Art Club and is a committee member of Westland Arts Inc and has served time as chairperson. A qualified landscape designer, Sue’s skills have been invaluable in helping to enhance the town of Hokitika and she has even had her artwork accepted to display as the Art Seats throughout the town.

Don is a coastal marine eco system scientist employed by the local Department of Conservation. He Helps with the Driftwood and Sands festival and was instrumental in designing the large HOKITIKA sign on the beachfront area. He was involved in the local Boys Brigade for many years, has appeared in numerous local plays and productions and has been secretary of the Management Committee of the Westland Community Trust.

Don appears at all local events for children dressed up as the legendary ‘Red Moki from Hoki’ and together with Sue the pair continue to give 100% to everything they do.

Nick Meissel (Hokitika)

Nick is a passionate teacher of drama, performing arts and music at Westland High School. Over the past eight years, he has been the driving force behind the school’s annual community stage productions.

He has seen the value of selecting his cast by combining school performers with adults from the Hokitika community. This gives the opportunity for students and adults alike to share and learn from each other, and also helps to bring the school and the community together.

He has been instrumental in bringing people to the stage who might not otherwise be given the opportunity to take part. He takes a special pride in casting some of the school’s special-needs students, and in involving students who fare less well with other parts of the school curriculum.

In 2016, Nick sought to produce a low-key production as the school were organizing an international drama trip. In the end, Nick’s enthusiasm flowed over to all of the others involved and it became one of the school’s biggest productions yet resulting in over a third of Hokitika’s population turning up to three shows at Hokitika’s Regent Theatre.

Rob Daniel and Anne Daniel (Hokitika)

Anne and Rob are involved in many volunteer roles in Hokitika that contribute to the town’s heritage, arts and community well-being. Together they make a great team that helps to drive the town’s vibrant culture.

Over the past six years, Rob has been involved in the restoration of Hokitika’s Regent Theatre. His tenacity was demonstrated in June 2015 when his recent renovations of the theatre’s basement rooms suffered severe flood damage during a storm, and he has since led a team of workers to bring them back up to scratch once more.

Since the 1990s, Rob has been a member of Heritage Hokitika, he is currently serving as Chair. Rob is also very involved in the Westland Industrial Heritage Park as treasurer and he is leading the group developing the Men’s Shed Project within the park.

As the treasurer of Westland Arts Incorporate, Anne has been a key driving force behind organising ‘Arts on Tour’ events. These events bring performing arts ‘off the beaten track’ to the rural Westland community. Anne brings around 10 of these and similar events to Hokitika each year.

Anne is also an accomplished weaver, she teaches harakeke/flax weaving and is a member of the Hokitika Craft Gallery.

In a world where it can often be difficult to recruit active volunteers, Anne and Rob are always able to spare the time to ensure that an event goes ahead smoothly.

Wayne Costello (Hokitika)

Wayne is the local Department of Conversation operation manager and Civil Defence controller for Westland District Council. Wayne’s efforts during the flood events at Franz Josef in March 2016 were tireless and he provided a huge amount of help to the community.

After increased concerns at the state of the river and stop banks due to the huge downpours of rain, Wayne spent much of the night in the pouring rain at the edge of the stop-bank monitoring its condition. Their concerns were for the safety of the staff and tourists in the adjoining Scenic Circle Hotel.

At 9pm Wayne made the call to evacuate the hotel and by 11pm the stop-bank had broken and the flooded river went through the hotel within minutes. Wayne contributed to a life-saving effort in this case as without his quick thinking lives would likely have been lost in the flood waters.

Debbie Forbes (Hokitika)

Debbie has made a vital contribution to the development of the community owned Regent Theatre over the past five years.

Debbie came onto the theatre’s voluntary committee in 2011 as the society’s treasurer at a time when the organisation was in the early stages of a major refurbishment.

As treasurer Debbie has ensured that all financial matters and, in particular, the management of grant funding is maintained to an exemplary level.

Debbie has also served on the employment committee taking a leading role in recruiting and working with the theatre’s manager and staff, developing a close and amicable rapport with all involved.

Along with running her own family guesthouse and motel business, Debbie also serves as treasurer for the Hokitika SPCA.

Lyall Delore (Hokitika)

Lyall has been working hard in his role as president of the Hokitika RSA. When their premises were deemed at risk of earthquake, Lyall ensured relationships with other community groups were strong and as a result they saw an outpouring of support and offers to host RSA meetings and events in other local venues.

Lyall has been the driving force behind the new RSA Building to replace the soon to be demolished old one.

He continues to give 100% to everything he puts his mind to and represents the Returned Service’s Association with dedication and honour.

Athol Olsen and Vern Abbott (Hokitika)

Athol and Vern are two local identities who provide great service to the Hokitika community. Almost daily for the past four years, they can be seen at the community-owned Regent Theatre where they have volunteered on the major programme of work that has seen the theatre refurbished inside and out.

The two men keep a lot of the painting and staining around the theatre up to scratch, as well as doing routine maintenance. They are there to help at the theatre’s regular entertainment events and they are often last to leave as part of the post-event evening cleanup crew.

Athol is a long serving and active member of the renowned Kokatahi Band that plays at numerous local events such as the Kumara Races and Hokitika Wild Foods Festival. He is also involved in the running of race days at Hokitika's Westland Racing Club and other events around town.

Merv Grewer (Hokitika)

Merv has been involved with the Hokitika Swimming Pool for more than 40 years. He has been a swimming instructor for 44 years, and is now teaching his second and third generation of Hokitika swimmers.

He ran the Hokitika pool complex for three years under contract from the Westland District Council and has been in charge of the boiler for 26 years. He has also coordinated the annual maintenance programme during this time.

With the installation of the new diesel fired boiler, Merv will no longer have a full time role when the pool opens this summer. He won’t be taking his retirement from the role lightly and is already looking for things to keep him busy. Marv’s input and influence at the pool and in the West Coast community over the years has been enormous.

Claire Bryant (Hokitika)

In 1990, Claire introduced the West Coast (and New Zealand) to the very first Hokitika Wild Foods Festival.

Twenty six years on, it has become a major, award winning and internationally acclaimed event, attracting more than 15,000 people from all over New Zealand and further afield. The event annually breathes life into the West Coast community and has become an iconic part of New Zealand history, celebrating the unique tastes of the West Coast.

Claire’s creativity and entrepreneurship has had a profound effect on her local community and businesses through the boost to the economy that the festival brings each year.

Tim Moreton (Greymouth)

Tim is a rugby league fanatic and whether it is supporting Brunner Bulls, West Coast teams or local high school teams, he is always there.

As a supporter, trainer, coach, water boy you can rely on him to be there week in week out.

Tim has established himself as a stalwart of the rugby league scene. He is passionate about Rugby League, supportive of all and is consistent in his leadership.

He is an all-around top guy that will give his all to the game and those involved in it.

Paul Maunder (Blackball)

Paul is a film director, playwright and "cultural activist" perhaps best known for his 1979 film of the Albert Wendt novel Sons For the Return Home, his 1983 play Hemi, about the life of James K. Baxter and his work in community-based theatre group Kiwi/Possum Productions.

The group has mounted a series of plays on local issues including 1080 (Poison and Purity), the Pike Disaster, race relations, mine closures, heritage, mental health (A Brief History of Madness) and the transition economy. These plays tour the West Coast and usually further afield.

Paul is also curator of the Blackball Museum of Working Class History. His recent publications include: Torndao and other stories written overtime, Coal and the Coast- reflections on the Pike River Disaster and Rebellious Mirrors- community-based theatre in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Mary Howden (Blackball)

Mary has been a member of Blackball Women’s Institute in the West Coast Federation since 1964. She has a Good Service Badge, Loyal Service Certificate, Presidents Award and her 40 and 50 years’ service badges.

Mary was Blackball Women’s Institute president for seven years and is now treasurer, a position she has held for 23 years. She has served on the West Coast Federation for two terms, one as press officer and one as treasurer. She has attended Federation AGM's many times as a delegate and always has entries in the local craft competition.

Mary is also very involved with a number of other community projects. She is a foundation member of West Coast Arthritis, West Coast CARE and Blackball Play Centre. She has served on the committee for Blackball St John, Care of Elderly, West Coast Hospital Home Help, Cogs Committee, Local Electoral Officer and she has distributed Census papers for 25 years.

Fiona Pollard (Kumara)

For the past two years, Fiona has been the chair of the Kumara Residents Trust. This role has required Fiona to be the primary contact point for a number of agencies and community groups.

This has seen her take a lead role in the creation of the Chinese Miners Memorial Garden. The ambitious local project honours both the past of Chinese gold miners and also the rustic and unique West Coast natural environment.

In addition to this project Fiona has also been involved with the Dillman’s Dam project and the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

Nicky Barton

PR Consultant

04 499 6940

0273 060 603

Lv. 12 City Chambers

142 Featherston Street


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