Local Heroes honoured for services to the Waikato community

18 Nov 2016

Waikato Local Heroes
Waikato Local Heroes

Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

As part of the 2017 New Zealander of the Year Awards, 19 winners of the Local Heroes category were presented with their awards last night at a special medal presentation ceremony held at the Waikato Museum.

Hamilton City Council Mayor Andrew King 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 Waikato were:

Ernie and Ngaire Lepper

Petrina Toimata

Philip Hawthorne

Sharnay Cocup

Dede Downs

Murray and Joan Craig

Fran Thompson-Stevens

Jim Evans

Sharni Budd

Sharon Jefferies

Eric James

Gary Hinds

Jennie Turner

Carol Armstrong

Anna Casey-Cox

Ariana Paul

Perry Taituha

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 over the next few weeks.

Kiwibank CEO, Paul Brock, said that Kiwibank was proud to be supporting local communities to 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 Awards 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, 021 671 799, info@nzawards.org.nz

Editors notes:

Photo Caption

Back row (L-R):

Eric Edwin James, Gary Hinds, Jennie Turner, Anna Casey-Cox, Dede Downs, Carol Armstrong, Sharni

Budd, Fran Thompson-Stevens, Jim Evans, Perry Taituha

Front row (L-R):

Murray Craig, Joan Craig, Sharnay Cocup, Hamilton Mayor Andrew King, Petrina Toimata, Sharon

Jefferies, Philip Hawthorne, Ariana Paul

Absent: Ernie and Ngaire Lepper

Waikato’s Local Heroes

Sharon Jefferies (Hamilton)

As an employment consultant with the Blind Foundation, Sharon has worked hard to improve the lives of those living with disabilities.

Sharon began this role in 2012 and has continued to go over and above for the cause of others. She is passionate, full of empathy and believes everyone deserves to contribute to society no matter what barriers they face.

Sharon has made great steps to raise disability awareness and help disabled individuals in the Waikato region gain employment.

Sharon has been instrumental in setting up and working with programs such as Job Chat, Cube and a national employment skills camp for those with disabilities to assist in helping them gain employment.

Recently she has been instrumental in organising over 10 events as part of a community taskforce working with the University of Waikato.

Anna Casey-Cox (Hamilton)

Anna is dedicated to creating a more socially just and environmentally sustainable world. While working full time for the Waikato Environment Centre and Poverty Action Waikato, Anna also volunteers her time with a number of different organisations. These include Hamilton Homeless Trust, Anglican Action, Diabetes New Zealand, and numerous other

projects dedicated to human welfare, social justice and environmental protection.

Through Poverty Action Waikato, Anna co-authored the 'Neglect and Nurture' report looking at where and how our society supports and/or excludes people in poverty. This piece of research has been really important in shaping policies and action in the Waikato since its release earlier this year.

Anna is a committed and inspirational volunteer and is a strong advocate for all people, especially those that are marginalised or may struggle to have their voices heard and needs met.

Petrina Toimata (Hamilton)

Petrina (known in her community as Aunty P) is an amazing lady with a huge heart.

Since 2014, she has been the lead coordinator for Hamilton Homeless Trust. This has meant volunteering 25+ hours every week to support the community through preparing and serving food five or more nights a week. Aunty P has even involved her whanau in helping out at Hamilton Homeless Trust.

Petrina advocates for the charity’s patrons and visits schools and other community groups to give presentations about poverty and social isolation within the community.

Through Petrina’s work, the Hamilton Homeless Trust can provide a safe space for members of the community. This work means people without food security are able to access a warm and nutritious meal every night.

Carol Armstrong (Hamilton)

Carol, SportsForce Parafed development officer has been a wonderful support to people with disabilities who want to play sports.

In July this year, Carol organised the first national Power Chair Football tournament in New Zealand.

In her own time, she coaches boccia and sits on numerous committees offering life changing opportunities across ages, mobility and abilities.

Carol is making a positive difference to the lives of those with disabilities through ensuring they find a sport that suits their abilities and interests.

Ariana Paul (Hamilton)

Ariana is committed to improving the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities in the Waikato region.

An entrepreneur, business owner and educationalist, Ariana is also the co-founder (with her husband Tama Potaka) of TriMaori Charitable Trust. The trust, established in 2012, creates events that promote health and well-being and also encourage Maori participation in triathlon.

Since 2012 the TriMaori event has grown from 600 to 1500 participants. While aimed at Māori, the events are inclusive of all whānau/families and communities.

Ariana has spent more than 20 years contributing to her local community through empowering and uplifting people. She is a true hero for the Waikato region.

Sharnay Cocup (Taupiri)

In 2014, Sharnay formed the first and only youth group in the Taupiri community and has attracted more than 40 youth in the Taupiri community to join.

She started the initiative to rebuild and redevelop the Taupiri Mountain Walkway, which had not been redeveloped for over 20 years. So far, Sharnay’s group has added new stairs, new handrails and held a successful community planting day attracting more than 60 families and youth who helped plant more than 250 native plants.

The sustained existence of the Youth Group has seen positive results in the community with a reduction in crime, vandalism, graffiti and truancy.

Sharnay’s contribution to her community was recognised in 2015 when she received the Change Maker Award from the Ministry for Youth.

Sharnay continues to be a passionate voice for the youth in Taupiri recently winning election to the Taupiri Community Board.

Dede Downs (Otorohanga)

An accomplished sportswoman in her own right, Dede’s passion for creating a healthier community through sport and recreation is clear to see.

In her current role with Sport Waikato, Dede is the Waitomo district coordinator but her commitment to the local community extends far beyond this.

For almost 20 years, Dede has been establishing organised activities for young and old. From a local volleyball competition in Te Kuiti, school holiday programmes for children, advising and setting up committees for new sports and often running these sports she is certainly a ‘powerhouse’ when it comes to getting things done.

Just some of the sporting efforts she has made include assisting in getting junior cricket off the ground in the Waitomo area, involvement in King Country Junior Hockey since the nineties, helping with junior soccer in Te Kuiti, assisting the local swimming club and she is currently helping to set up a local gymsport club.

She hopes to keep young people in the community and ensures there are plenty of activities for Waikato school kids to get involved in to reduce boredom and help them feel like a valued member of the community.

Dede was instrumental in establishing the annual Sport Waikato/Waitomo District Sports Awards Ceremony.

Dede is inspiring and puts others before herself, and this is her greatest strength within her role across our community.

Jim Evans (Mercury Bay)

Since 2012, Jim a licensed aircraft maintenance engineer, has been providing a unique opportunity to the kids of Mercury Bay area school.

Every Wednesday afternoon, in Jim’s shed (near the Mercury Bay Aero Club), a group of students together with mentors from the community come together to work on the construction of a plane. This a fine example of inter-generational collaboration.

The plane, a Vans RV-12 kit-set two seater was purchased by Jim at a cost of $100,000 and on completion was sold at a profit. The success of the first plane project has led to a further two planes being constructed and again sold at a profit. All profits are reinvested back through the Mercury Bay Student Aviation Trust which was set up to help finance the build and to subsidise flying fees for the students.

Most importantly the programme provides the students with a work and training experience has now seen three students finding work in the aviation sector.

Fran Thompson-Stevens (Tokoroa)

Passionate about providing support for parents and babies, Fran has been running innovative parent, baby and toddler classes called babyBEings.

Based on the work of Hungarian Emmi Pikler, who opened an orphanage after World War II, the babyBEings programme believes that babies can be much more than just cute and cuddly and should be seen as capable beings right from birth.

First opened in 2008, Fran has created an opportunity for parents to spend dedicated one on one time with their children, nurturing a great relationship that is based on the principals of respect and partnership whilst enhancing early social, emotional, motor and cognitive development of their baby.

After demand grew, Fran also introduced a programme for toddlers called littleBEings and one specific to mothers called MummyBEings.

Murray and Joan Craig (Huntly)

Murray and Joan as a team have been actively involved in helping their community for many years.

Joan has been involved in running the lower Waikato netball club, early childhood centres, has led Red Cross and also runs their op shop and also helps with RSA and Lions.

Since his retirement, Murray has been the long standing Lions Club secretary, a drummer in the Army band which involves performing at dawn services and other RSA involvements. The local community have all benefitted at some point in time from Murray and Joan’s commitment to Huntly.

Sharni Budd (Te Awamutu)

Two years ago, Sharni founded Loving Arms, a free, confidential, home-based service providing practical support and encouragement to expectant mothers, mothers of new-borns or infants and their families.

A mother of seven, Sharni knows the challenges that come with being an expectant or new mother and decided she wanted to help others in the community facing motherhood. The need for such a service in Te Awamutu was evident and the practical and emotional support provided by Loving Arms has been a great help to many families. This support has included packs of clothing, nappies, car seats and bedding arranged by Loving Arms for those who need them.

In just two years, Sharni and Loving Arms have assisted more than 60 families and there will no doubt be many more families in the future benefitting from her care.

Perry Taituha (Te Kuiti)

Perry, the owner of power company PT Power Solutions, has dedicated his life to giving those in need a helping hand up with work or financial assistance.

A skilled power-linesman and electrician, Perry continues to give back to the community and shows no sign of slowing down or retiring.

Through his business, he has been able to offer many people jobs and the chance to upskill themselves before they move onto a new role.

If people need firewood, meals prepared or just a beer shouted at the pub, Perry is there for everyone.

He is a local hero to the people of Te Kuiti and the wider community.

Eric James (Te Aroha)

Eric has given many years of service to his community through his association with numerous local organisations.

Eric’s involvement in Scouting as a committee member for ten years included assisting in getting a new Scout Hall built in the region.

As president of Manawaru Federated Farmers for almost 30 years, Eric has been a keen and committed member of Te Aroha’s rural community.

Eric’s involvements have also included Te Aroha Rotary, the church committee, chairman of Manawaru School and founder of the Manawaru Historical Society.

Also of note was Eric’s contribution to the region during severe flooding in 1985. Eric corralled a team with trucks, tractors and labour to help with the clean-up.

Jennie Turner (Tairua)

A writer, producer, director and set designer, Jennie has bought a cultural element to the Tairua community as she uses her talents to bring plays to life – and raise funds for local organisations. 

Since 2006, Jennie’s plays have raised more than $90,000 for the community. Drawing on local singers, actors and comedians, Jennie has been producing plays based on the Kiwi lifestyle. She lets her sense of humour shine through, giving the audience the freedom to interact and laugh out loud which keeps them coming back for more.

Organisations to benefit from the funds raised by Jennie’s plays include St. Johns Ambulance, the Volunteer Fire Service and Search and Rescue.

Gary Hinds (Whenuakite)

Gary is the Hot Water Beach Surf Life Saving Club chairman. Every year the popular but dangerous beach is attended by thousands of visitors, from all over the world, but funding for the lifeguard service is only available over the summer months.

The voluntary role has seen Gary give up many hours to commit himself to the role which has included fundraising for the club to ensure funding is always there for lifeguards when needed.

Gary was named New Zealand Surf Lifeguard of the Year in 2012, a testament to the work he has put into building such a strong and cohesive patrol.

From dawn to dusk, he spends time coaching and mentoring young lifeguards and running the children's water safety programme.

As if this weren't enough, in his 'spare' time, he voluntarily takes local kids to Nepal to build local schools.

Ernie Lepper and Ngaire Lepper (Matamata)

Ernie and Ngaire have each given life-long service to their communities.A former pupil of Wesley College, Ernie led and organised outdoor education camps for the school for almost 20 years.

Both Ernie and Ngaire have given over 32 years’ service to scouting in both Matamata and Tauranga, organising summer camps, Jamborees and 20 years ago as founding members of the Te Puna Scout Group.

Since 2008 Ernie and Ngaire have been actively involved with the Matamata Community Health Shuttle service with Ernie overseeing the ongoing vehicle maintenance and Ngaire as secretary for the past six years.

Ernie and Ngaire are admired by many as heroes to their local community.

Philip Hawthorne (Raurimu)

Phil is known in his community as a hardworking kiwi bloke who is willing to help anyone in need and fix any problems he finds along the way.

In late 1986, being a house owner in Raurimu, Phil was troubled by an unreliable water supply for the village. He called a meeting of all residents and ratepayers which led to the formation of a community committee, which under Phil’s leadership oversaw the installation of brand new pipework throughout the whole village. Phil was solely responsible for design,management and installation as well as sourcing materials, sometimes at his own cost.

In the early 2000's it became apparent that the water supply needed upgrading. Phil took on the challenge once again, researching, designing, building and installing a new water treatment plant.

Phil's work and involvement in the community has seen Raurimu grow into a thriving village with an increasing population.

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