Nelson Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

10 Dec 2016

Nelson Tasman Local Hero Ceremony
Nelson Tasman Local Hero Ceremony

10th December 2016

Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

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

As part of the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards, the 12 winners of the Local Heroes category were presented with their awards last night at a special medal presentation ceremony held at The Petite Fleur.

Nelson City Councillor Mel Courtney 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.”

“As a council we are working tirelessly to build a strong, healthy and caring community, believing a strong community leads to an even stronger Nation - your endeavours are contributing hugely towards that” he said.

The recipients of the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards for the Nelson/Tasman region were:

Ian Watts

Gillian Wratt

Megan Rutledge

Miaolin Li

Haden McCrorie

Mark Wentworth

Alan Kissell

Henk Visker

Anne-Marie Fowke-Stayner

Jennifer Amosa

Paul Le Gros

Chris Paulsen*

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 (l to r): Regan Savage (Kiwibank), Miaolin Li, Hayden McCrorie, Alan Kissel, Chris Paulsen, Mark Wentworth

Front row (l to r): Councillor Mel Courtney, Megan Routledge, Anne-Marie Fowke-Stayner, Elizabeth Bean who received on behalf of Gillian West, Henk Visker, Alan Kissell

Absent: Paul Le Gros and Jennifer Amosa

Editors notes:

*Chris Paulsen lives in Auckland but received his medal at the Nelson ceremony.

Nelson/Tasman’s Local Heroes

Anne-Marie Fowke-Stayner (Nelson)

Anne-Marie is a part-time community stroke advisor for the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand. Her role is advocating for and supporting the complex health and recovery needs of stroke survivors and their affected families in the Nelson and Tasman regions.

Anne-Marie personally and very competently organises regular meetings, both person to person, and peer support group gatherings. These meetings enable the mutual exchange of healthcare information and shared experiences that help people to meet the challenging circumstances of stroke rehabilitation.

As the community stroke advisor she not only supports those who have suffered a stroke but places a huge emphasis on supporting the loved ones who have found themselves caring for a family member or struggling emotionally to adapt to the change.

Anne-Marie shows genuine empathy and sincere compassion for the personal lives of the people she supports. She is a dedicated advisor to people in need of help from the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand.

Miaolin Li (Nelson)

Miaolin has been combating racism and is the face behind many valuable cultural projects in the local community.

As one of the Chinese community leaders in the region, Miaolin is the coordinator for Speak Out Nelson Tasman, a reporting and educating system for racist incidents.

Miaolin has been the secretary of the Chinese Association and she puts a huge amount of time and energy into giving back to the community. Her involvements and initiatives have included setting up a Seniors English Class for new Chinese migrants to learn English and reduce social isolation, Mandarin for Children classes which allow Nelson children to learn Chinese language from a young age, and the Parents and Young Children’s group which helps Chinese parents meet with others in the community to learn parenting skills and advice from local family support agencies.

Miaolin has been organising Nelson’s Chinese New Year Celebrations in 2014, 2015 and 2016 with the aim of bringing together diverse communities to promote social cohesion.

She also provides translation, interpretation and transport services to the New Zealand Police, local health board, Chinese international students, Chinese tourists and Chinese seniors.

Paul Le Gros (Nelson)

Paul might be a career lawyer but this hasn’t stopped him getting involved in all areas of Nelson life.

This has included dedication to the local and national YMCA and the establishment of Orinoco Vineyard in the early 1990s. He has also served as a Port Nelson director and been a great advocate for the Nelson region.

In the YMCA, Paul has been named a life member and has also spent time serving as National Board president. He has had international involvements with the YMCA and remains on the board of his local YMCA.

His various roles have seen him connect with members of the local community and support many projects taking place within the region. He is a worthy local hero medal recipient for his long service to a city he very much loves.

Ian Watts (Stoke)

Inspirational, dedicated, knowledgeable and respected are just some of the words to describe Ian and his ongoing commitment to the New Zealand Search and Rescue and Emergency Response Team (NZ-RT2) in the Nelson/Tasman region.

His Search and Rescue involvement started in the early 1970’s as a field team medic. Since then he has served search and rescue and the New Zealand Police as team leader, rescue helicopter crewman and search and rescue advisor.

In 2002, NZ-RT2 was established as the second emergency response team in New Zealand. Ian is the only team member to have served continuously for the full fourteen years they have been operating.

When the Christchurch earthquake happened, Ian was part of the second wave of NZ-RT2 personnel to help with the clean-up and securing fallen chimneys.

This year he has taken on the role as team leader and Ian continues to give everything he can back to his local community to keep the public safe.

Megan Rutledge (Tahunanui)

Meg is the director of Natureland Wildlife Trust, which was formed in 2013 after Meg and her husband took over Natureland Zoo, in Tahunanui.

Nelson City Council was on the verge of shutting the zoo down, despite public outcry, when Meg submitted an application to take over the zoo. Through Meg’s leadership, Natureland has demonstrated what a community can achieve with teamwork, leadership and a public vision.

At takeover, the facilities were in an extremely dire state. Animal welfare was not up to Meg’s high standards and the site was visibly neglected. Despite community support for its existence, visitor attendance was weak and staff morale was low.

Meg was able to turn this around and make Natureland once again a place that people visited and the community engaged with.

Under Meg’s guidance the trust has donated funds to the Kea Conservation Trust and the Brook Waimarama Sanctuary. 

Natureland is also now working with Big Brothers and Big Sisters Nelson to launch a campaign for children, to make access to nature and wildlife a positive part of human relationships and childhood growth.

Alan Kissell (Waimea)

Menzshed Waimea coordinator Alan has been an integral part of the Menzshed project since it first began in 2011.

The Menzshed brings men together in one community space to share their skills, have a laugh, and work on practical tasks, individually on personal projects or as a group for the community. Alan has been the driving force behind engaging with community groups and using the talents of the various men in the group to benefit the greater Nelson region.

The shed has been a blessing for many retired men who had downsized their homes and lost their sheds and garages. It also allows them to become involved in community projects as volunteers.

Alan has been coordinating Menzshed volunteers in building, repairing and maintaining the Way 2 Go bike tracks and providing a tool-cleaning service and furniture repairs for people in the community.

They also provided voluntary tutors to Bunning’s Warehouse for special events where they teach home maintenance and basic DIY skills.

There are now about 30 volunteers working around 400 hours a month at the shed and one of their most satisfying jobs is helping out a group of intellectually disabled men every Tuesday. The men came from Idea and Disability Support Services and receive tutoring in a range of woodworking skills so they too can make items for community projects.

Mark Wentworth (Motueka)

Mark is always helping out with local shows and events with his production manager and lighting

expertise. Most of this help is unpaid.

He is considered the town’s ‘Memorial Hall Saviour’ after he instigated the upgrade of the local hall with volunteers and contractors, a process that has taken five years. Part way through the project he was diagnosed with cancer, but Mark would not let this stop him and after regaining his health he went straight back to getting the job done.

Mark steps in for local dance teachers to set up sound and lighting for their end of year concerts. He recently did the sound and lighting and checked the rigging for a local aerial silks show by Firebird Circus. He was able to elevate the show to a professional standard which was appreciated by all involved.

Mark was production manager for Rock The House, a singing extravaganza where local schools come together to Rock the Socks off the local community. Eight hundred students took turns to fill the halls stage over four nights and perform before an audience of around 1200. Mark had gone above and beyond to get the hall ready for the show – often at the venue until 2am working on the sets.

He is a wonderful mentor to young folk who are wanting to learn about stage sound and lighting, often working with the high school shows to help pass on his knowledge and skills to students.

Mark is also the manager of Motueka State Cinema and in this role he is frequently rolling out fundraisers to support local schools and community groups.

Gillian Wratt (Atawhai)

Gillian has more than twenty years of senior executive management experience in the science and environmental sectors.

This has included ten years as CEO/Director of the New Zealand Antarctic Institute and six years as CEO of the $20 million research and consulting business owned by the not-for-profit Cawthron Trust.

She has been pivotal in providing leadership and direction for the Nelson Tasman Cycle Trails Trust where she has been chair since 2012. She has been chair of the New Zealand Outdoor Instructors Association since 2014 and a board member since 2012. She has been chair of the Project Janszoon Trust. She has been Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce vice president since 2015 and a board member since 2009.

Gillian has demonstrated sustained and committed leadership to both business and the community over her career.

She is a generous and loyal member of the Nelson community and is a local hero to all she works with.

Henk Visker (Takaka)

Henk is the founder and treasurer of the Golden Bay Community Services. Set up in 2000, his vision was to provide a helping hand to locals in the community.

To do so, he launched the Wrinkles Express bus to provide a community-based transport service for disabled people of any age and all people over 50 to reach their medical appointments.

The first two years of the service were tough financially. But with Henk’s astute approach and dedication the service has since stabilised and now looks after more than 350 members.

The service will take Golden Bay residents all the way into Nelson for appointments – or even a day’s shopping when time and funds permit.

As its founder, Henk’s vision has remained strong and the Wrinkles Express is making the lives of many locals that little bit easier every day.

Jennifer Amosa (Wakefield)

Jennifer does so much for amateur theatre in the region and although being a mother to three young children she has found the time to be the production manager for the musical Oliver in 2015 and Peter Pan in 2016 for the Wakefield Country Players.

Through Jennifer’s hard work and creative determination, the Country Players theatre has been showcasing local talents and creating exciting events for locals to attend.

Jennifer loves children, as evidenced by her contribution to the play centre in her spare time, and she works hard to help children and teens develop confidence on stage through theatre.

She is a major arts advocate for the region and a local hero to many in her community.

Haden McCrorie (Richmond)

Haden is a professional yacht skipper and he brings his calm authority and integrity to his role as a Coastguard volunteer. His positive attitude and analytical mind are evidenced whether he is in a position of command on the Coastguard Rescue Vessel, as a member of the management team or in a social setting.

His dedication cannot be questioned as he responds as readily to training exercises as to call-outs. He has earned the respect of his crew for the manner in which he conducts himself both on and off duty.

Haden has had a significant impact on trainees and the Coastguard rescue unit as a whole. His ability to pass on his knowledge to all volunteers whatever their level, is unparalleled. He has also helped with the introduction of the new health and safety requirements into the unit, having attended one of the training sessions in Wellington in support of the unit health and safety officer.

In May this year Haden was a member of the crew tasked to assist a yacht off D’Urville Island whose exhausted crew had requested assistance in heavy weather. Haden was able to board the yacht and single handedly (yacht crew were unable to help) removed the damaged storm sail and rigged the yacht to be able to make it to safety.

Haden is well known within the maritime industry in particular here in Nelson through his recent employment as a skipper on a Nelson based charter yacht Yonder Star as well as his involvement with sailing in the Nelson region.

Chris Paulsen (Auckland) *

Chris is the founder and executive chairman of House of Travel, a company he started from a single office in Timaru in 1987.

House of Travel now has 75 stores, is the third largest travel organisation in the Asia/Pacific region employing close to 2000 staff across the House of Travel group.

Through an initiative led by Chris, House of Travel supported Hospice Care across New Zealand for more than a decade. They have been involved in a number of activities over the years to raise awareness and funds for Hospice and continue to engage with their local communities.

Nicky Barton

PR Consultant

04 499 6940

0273 060 603

Lv. 12 City Chambers

142 Featherston Street


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