Northland Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

16 Dec 2016

Northland/ Whangarei Local Hero Awards Ceremony
Northland/ Whangarei Local Hero Awards Ceremony

16 December 2016

Local Heroes honoured for services to the community

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

As part of the 2017 Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards, the 25 winners of the Local Heroes category were presented with their awards last night at a special medal presentation ceremony held at Toll Stadium.

Whangarei District Council Mayor Sheryl Mai was on hand to present the medals. She 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,” she said.

The recipients of the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards for Northland were:

Jeffrey Peter D'Ath

Ash Holwell

Te Amohaere Rudolph

Joe Nol

Lynette MacDonald

Tony Solomon

Bastienne Kruger

James Powdrill

Carolyn Wessel

Johannes Wessel

Yvonne Pitman

Vic Pitman

Joan Wyatt

Rosemary Waters

Glenis Sutherland

Stuart Clark

Valerie McGregor

Patricia Brott

Puke Marama Nikora

Ezekiel Raui

Trevor Bedggood

Dwane Kokich

Mike Bradshaw

Shirley May

Kevin Prime

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 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): Joe Nol, Jeffrey D’Ath, Tony Solomon, Hikairo Taikato (collecting on behalf of his Grandfather, Kevin Prime), Dwane Kokich, Shirley May, Carolyn Wessel, Mike Bradshaw, Johannes Wessel, Bastienne Kruger, Glenis Sutherland, Ezekiel Raua, Bob Atkins (collecting on behalf of Vic Pitman), Ash Holwell.

Front row (L to R): Dion Harrison (Kiwibank), Heather Atkins (collecting on behalf of Yvonne Pitman), James Powdrill, Rosemary Waters, Joan Wyatt, Val McGregor, Lynette MacDonald, Trevor Bedggood, Mayor Sheryl Mai, Puke Marama Nikora.

Editors notes:

Northland’s Local Heroes

Ash Holwell (Whangarei)

Ash has been a member of the Discovery Foundation Community for many years. He began as a volunteer team leader for the Discovery for Teens programme and then moved on to being one of the core staff members.

Ash brings ideas and innovations that challenge the status quo and bring about change for the better. What makes him stand out is that he actually takes action.

Ash created Whare Bike, a community bicycle workshop with a following throughout the country. Taking old bicycles destined for landfill, the volunteers at the workshop teach people the skills to fix up their own bikes and take home an empowering means of transport. In ten months of operation Whare Bike has given away more than 120 bicycles.

You can find him riding his ownbike around the streets of Whangarei, contributing to any number of arts focused community activities, inspring landlords and business owners to engage with their city, digging community gardens, creating large scale community arts events and empowering young people to learn the things they want to learn.

For the past year and a half he has been involved in project ONEONSIX, a voluntary commitment, building a community arts and performance hub with and for the people of Whangarei.

In 2015 he was commissioned by Letting Space to create a civic artwork in Porirua as part of TEZA, a major arts and social development project based in the city.

Dwane Kokich (Whangarei)

Dwane is always willing to lend a hand whenever needed to family and friends.

For the past 18 years Dwane has been an active and passionate volunteer and committee member of the Matakohe – Limestone Island restoration project which, since its inception in 1989, has transformed the Island into a functioning coastal broadleaf forest and predator free ecosystem.

His other community involvements have included ten years with the Onerahi Lions Club and volunteering for Riding for the Disabled.

He recently went to Fiji for Habitat for Humanity to construct a shed after bad weather.

Dwane also volunteers to watch over carparks at hotspots that are being targeted by thieves in the summer months.

Vic and Yvonne Pitman (Whangarei)

Vic and Yvonne are legends in the Whangarei community and are notorious for getting stuck in and getting things done.

Vic was district governor in the 90s for the Bay of Plenty/Waikato area Lions club, he is currently a member of Tutukaka Lions where he serves as secretary and treasurer. He holds office at his marae in Ngunguru and is secretary of the Graves committee.

Yvonne is currently in the Hatea Lions and was a founding member of the club. She has served on the committee as secretary and has been membership chairman for 10 years.

She has been involved in Camp Quality, raising funds for a heart walker for a local disabled child, assisting with the annual Guy Fawkes fundraiser, assisting with the Project Promise fundraiser, implementing breakfast in schools and helping with community Christmas day meals.

She has raised funds for exercise equipment of the Hatea Loop, organised the Young Ambassador contest, assisted with Relay for life and helped organise the donation of training mannequins for St Johns.

In 2003, Vic received his Lifetime Membership to Lions and in 2013 Yvonne received the District Governor Award for Appreciation.

Rosemary Waters (Whangarei)

Rosemary is recognised for her considerable contribution to the wellbeing and welfare of the Whangarei community, in particular the elderly.

For more than 40 years, Rosemary has played the organ for the Ruatangata Christian Fellowship, and has organised the popular Ruatangata District Carol Service for 14 of those years.

Rosemary plays for the Maungatapere Church; funerals, weddings and christenings on request; as one of the pianists at the Central Baptist Church; and for 17 years she was the organist for the St John’s Church choir in Maunu.

For 12 years she has regularly played wartime and church music for residents of the Potter Memorial Home, and for four years has done the same for the residents of Radius Rimu Park and Puriri Court Rest Home and Hospital.

She also plays for Cairnfield House, Kamo Home, Selwyn Park, River View Rest Home and Jane Mander Retirement Village residents, on request.

For two years when her children were young, Rosemary devoted time to making school lunches at Kokopu School. She has also been a delivery person for Meals on Wheels for 14 years, and supported the work of overseas missionaries as a letter writer and as a fundraiser through the collection of stamps for the Leprosy Mission.

Rosemary has conscientiously and selflessly contributed to her community over many decades.

Tony Solomon (Waipu)

Born and raised in Auckland, and spending his early working life there as a pharmacist, Tony moved to Northland in 1961 to become the Rawene chemist.

He became known for going the extra mile for the health of the community, often hand delivering prescriptions or opening after hours to ensure people got their medication. Despite his retirement from pharmacy work in 2013 he has remained committed to a number of community projects.

Tony is a long-serving and active member of the Waipu Residents and Ratepayers Association, he has coached the Waipu Rugby Club’s junior teams for more than ten years, on the club’s rugby committee, as its president for several years, served as a senior rugby referee and the Whangarei Junior Rugby Management Board delegate.

Tony took junior coaching at the Waipu Tennis Club, has helped organize events for the Waipu Athletics Club and marshaled for the Waipu Highland Games.

Since joining the Waipu Business Association and Promotions Group in 1975 he has served several terms as chair and has been a contributing part of its development and promotional events, including the street markets, Christmas Parade and Waipu Art and Tartan Festival.

Tony was instrumental in the formation and running of the Waipu 2000 Trust in 1992, served on the Parent Teacher Association and Board of Trustees of Bream Bay College and the Whangarei Boys’ High School.

Tony cares deeply about the people of Waipu and their wonderful part of the world, and with wife Weenie’s support he has demonstrated his concern for their welfare in a multitude of ways.

Bastienne Kruger (Hikurangi)

Principal of Hukerenui School, Bastienne’s leadership and contribution to the local community has not gone unnoticed. She has developed a vision for the school that would integrate the community and provide hands-on learning for the students in their rural setting.

The school has large grounds that were mostly underused. Bastienne identified students in the school with strong leadership potential and set up a Problem Solving team to determine how best to use this land.

The solution has seen widespread community involvement in the school and both national, and international recognition for the school and community. The Problem Solving team won the International Junior championship at the Future Problem Solving Programme in the United States, in 2015.

Bastienne identified rural connections in the community and facilitated the students to set up a company that grows maize, on both the school’s land and also land leased from a local farmer. 

Other solutions for the use of the land includes beehives, alpacas, native tree plantation, and lavender growing.

The dedication and passion required of Bastienne to ensure this programme runs effectively, while providing ongoing learning opportunities for the students, is well beyond what would normally be expected of a school principal.

Lynette MacDonald (Hikurangi)

Lynette has been a volunteer for Whangarei Victim Support since 2002 when she completed her first training.

Since then she has undertaken ongoing training including attending the Porirua Police College for Homicide Training, Bereavement Training and many other relevant trainings.

It is hard to put a figure on the number of people she has been in contact with since she started with Victim Support but it would be nearing 1000. Lynette gives her time freely, always puts the needs of the victim of crime or an emergency first and works with them however she can.

In 2009 she was awarded the National Victim Support Merit Award for Exemplary Service. She is a local hero to many for the countless hours she has spent over the years supporting victims at court or at home, wherever she is needed.

James Powdrill (Kaikohe)

Jim volunteers with the Kaikohe Pioneer Village, St John Ambulance and the Kaikohe Volunteer Fire Brigade to name just a few of his community activities.

But it’s with the Volunteer Fire Brigade that Jim has really displayed the kind of selfless dedication that keeps New Zealand communities safe.

Jim has volunteered with the Kaikohe Fire Brigade for 53 years. For more than half a century, Jim has dropped everything when that alarm sounds to go and help others. He is Kaikohe station’s operational support officer and remains a crucial part of the team – mentoring and encouraging younger volunteers.

Joe Nol (Kaikohe)

Joe is a quiet achiever, who works diligently in the background to get things done. For 40 years, Joe has assisted in making Kaikohe’s Lindvart Park a sports and community hub that all members of the community can enjoy.

He has served as chair of the park’s management committee and worked as its treasurer for 30 years, only retiring from this role earlier in the year. He’s also been treasurer of the Kaikohe Business Association and is a leader of the town’s night patrols that work closely with the police.

Valerie McGregor (Kaitaia)

Val embodies the sort of values we admire in New Zealand communities and is described as an invaluable secretary, health and safety representative, probation worker manager, shop coordinator and general ‘go to’ person for Kaitaia’s Hope Christian Centre.

Val has been involved in the community since her children were young – including with the marching group, swimming club, gymnastics, Far North Special Olympics and she was also a regular exhibitor at the local A&P Show.

She has worked with St Johns as area coordinator for Caring Caller, she’s taught people how to cook on a budget, worked for Age Concern, Council of Social Services and the Hospital Auxiliary.

Te Amohaere Rudolph (Kaitaia)

Te Amohaere is an outstanding young woman who despite being diagnosed with terminal cancer, has continued to be actively involved in the community.

Te Amohaere is currently the student representative to the Kaitaia College Board of Trustees for the second consecutive year, she is part of Te Kahui Haka o te Puawaitanga, the Kaitaia College kapa haka roopu, a qualified surf lifesaver and volunteers with Far North Surf Lifesaving at Ahipara. She is also part of Arotahi, a youth group affiliated to Te Runanga o Te Rarawa, promoting health through the creative arts.

Te Amohaere is an accomplished and inspirational young Maori leader, strong in her reo and tikanga, exemplary in her manaakitanga and humility. She sets an example to other youth and is popular among her peers. She is an experienced public speaker with a strong message about seizing the day and taking up opportunities in life. She has spoken at many community events, including the Kaitaia Intermediate 2015 prizegiving, the Arotahi Colour Splash event and the Kaitaia Primary Te Whare Tapa Wha event.

Patricia Brott (Kaitaia)

Pat supports several community organisations, but it’s the Red Cross where she’s really made a difference.

She’s been a member of the Kaitaia branch for many years, helping with the annual appeal, delivering Meals on Wheels, fundraising and undertaking the type of behind-the-scenes work community organisations rely on to keep functioning.

Pat obviously has a knack for it, she’s been Kaitaia Red Cross branch president and treasurer for some years now. She is also the chair the Claud Switzer Home Auxiliary, a key group of volunteers who make a real difference to the lives of rest home residents.

The Auxiliary ensures residents get regular visits, that birthdays are celebrated, that they go on trips and can buy a few luxuries. At a time when volunteer groups often struggle for members, the Auxiliary has managed to increase its membership with Pat at the helm.

Trevor Bedggood (Kaikohe)

Trevor has a love of things mechanical, as shown by his many years of volunteer work with the Pioneer Village in Kaikohe, and the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway in Kawakawa.

Trevor is driver of Gabriel, Kawakawa’s famous train, and of Betty, Kaikohe’s 1901 Burrell steam traction engine. He is one of only a few drivers licensed to drive all the machines at the Pioneer Village.

As maintenance coordinator, Trevor is not only responsible for keeping the temperamental antiques working, he also arranges for convoys of ancient farm machinery to appear at Christmas Parades and A&P Shows.

Fellow enthusiasts describe Trevor as a man whose passion for the machines of yesteryear has made him something of an oracle to those eager to learn about these wonderful relics.

Shirley May (Kaikohe)

Since she was a young girl, Shirley has had a love for music, she now takes every opportunity she can to help others in the community enjoy music as much as she does.

Shirley has been a member of the Little Tennessee Country Music Club for 37 years. She was made a life member of this club several years ago for her continued contribution to the club and her support of all its members.

When membership began declining and was at an all-time low at just six members, Shirley proposed shifting the club to meet in Kawakawa. The proposal was accepted and today the club has more than 60 members from as far south as Wellsford and as far north as Kaitaia.

She has been the organiser of the Bay of Islands Country Rock Festival for 27 years, the Bay of Islands Jazz and Blues Festival for 23 years, the Kawakawa Vintage Railway Concerts for eight years, chair of the Little Tennessee Country Music Club for 34 years, chairman and committee member of the Pakaraka Hall and on the committee for the 75th and 100th anniversaries of Pakaraka School.

Glenis Sutherland (Kaikohe)

Glenis has served 50 years of continuous service to Northland College only retiring in 2014.

In those 50 years she has achieved so much and contributed countless hours to the vitality of the Northland region. She has coached hockey teams for the school, coached and managed swim teams, assisted with school productions and was even a bus controller.

Always concerned for the interests of her students her roles in the college have included head of the mathematics department, acting headmistress, deputy principal, guidance councillor, first aid, behaviour specialist, role model and guide for first year teachers and a mentor and friend to hundreds.

Even after leaving her lengthy teaching career, Glenis felt she had more to give so began work as a victim support person. The voluntary role requires 10 to 15 hours of her time each week. Glenis has also served more than six years for Rotary including as president and assistant district governor.

Puke Marama Nikora (Kaikohe)

Puke has provided Kaikohe and the wider community with leadership and spiritual guidance for more than 55 years.

Puke became an Apotoro Wairua, or lay counsellor with Te Haahi Rātana in the 1950s and has since baptised children and families, and performed marriages and burials. But it is in the more difficult work of helping people deal with hard times – guiding them through illness and grief – that Puke has often displayed a special skill.

Puke is also spiritual advisor to Te Kotahitanga Marae Trust, and an active supporter of the Okorihi Marae Rebuild – his own Marae that tragically burnt down in 2003.

Puke is still busy and continues to be a spiritual stalwart for the Ratana and wider Kaikohe communities. He is deeply respected by all who know him – as a humanitarian and a mentor.

Mike Bradshaw (Kawakawa)

Mike has been associated with the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway since the early eighties. This railway is the oldest in the North Island and due to its dilapidated state the line was shut down in 2000.

Mike has international experience in railways having spent time in Wales as works manager rebuilding the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways. This saw him in charge of 24 personnel working to restore and maintain two steam locomotives, six diesel engines and 100 coaches.

Through his work with the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway, the rail is now successfully running a passenger service through to Taumarere. The aim is restore the railway all the way through to Opua within two years.

As the operations manager, Mike has also been working with the cycleway, local oyster farms and the Minerva Steam Boat to really expose the Far North experience to both local and international travellers.

Samuel Kevin Prime (Kawakawa)

Kevin has made a hugely significant contribution to his community and the rest of New Zealand through his work with conservation and land use, community activities including education, health and regional economic development and fostering positive relationships between Maori, Pakeha and the Polynesian community.

Much of his work has been done on a voluntary basis and as a successful farmer and forester he brings a refreshingly practical focus to all his work.

He has made major contributions in assisting philanthropical trusts such as the Tindall Foundation and Foundation North in connecting better with the Maori and Polynesian worlds.

He has been a positive force for change in his many activities which include the Northland Area Health Board, the Ngati Hine Health Trust, as the foundation chair of Reconnecting Northland and chair of the board of governors of Bay of Islands College.

He was the prime mover in the successful restoration of Motatau Forest and revitalising the kereru population of Northland.

Joan Wyatt (Woodhill)

Jo was a volunteer at the Whangarei Police Station from May 2005 to May 2015. In this time, Jo worked as a CCTV operator, on the front counter and in later years as a volunteer coordinator.

Jo has a team of around 30 volunteers who she supervises. Her role as the coordinator is critical for the organisation and comes with various responsibilities. She completes rosters, inductions for new volunteers and presents any training sessions for her team.

Jo has also been a volunteer at the North Haven Hospice shop since November 2009. She became a team leader two days a week, a role that is essential in running the shop successfully.

Jo’s generosity has made her a hero to the local police and many others in the community.

Carolyn and Johannes Wessel (Ruawai)

Now in their 70s, both Carolyn and Johannes have worked tirelessly within the local community.

Joe worked in and managed the local vet centre from the 1970s until his retirement seven years ago. Caroline also worked at the vet clinic but is best known for her skills as a piano teacher and her community work at both the Ruawai College and Primary Schools.

Since Joe’s retirement he has been a committee member and guide for the Matakohe Kauri Museum, a long-time member of the Ruawai Community Promotions Group including Keep Ruawai Beautiful Committee and last year he took responsibility for starting the Ruawai Rambler newsletter.

Carolyn has been playing the piano for the local primary school choir in preparation for the children’s ‘Kids For Kids’ concert held recently in Whangarei. She heads into school twice a week to hear students read in the school’s Reading Mileage program. 

In the last three years Caroline has taken over the chairmanship of the Ruawai Hall committee and Joe has taken over as treasurer.

Stuart Clark (Hikurangi)

Stuart moved to Hikurangi in 1983, immediately immersing himself in the community and embarking on a life of service that continues to this day.

A sizeable part of that involves the Waro Lake Scenic Reserve. Stuart was a founding member of the Friends of Waro Lake, and in 2013 generously swapped pieces of his own land for Whangarei District Council land, making it possible for the public to gain improved access to the Yvonne Stewart Memorial Walkway and giving people better access to ‘Waro Rock’ for jumping from in summer.

Stuart has been helping to develop and maintain the lake over the last 15 years, and spends many hours of his own time clearing graffiti, vegetation and rubbish from the Reserve.

He is involved with the Hikurangi School breakfast club, Tornado Youth Community Trust, a long standing member of the Hikurangi Good News Club and was a founding member of the government-funded Healthy Hikurangi Leading for Outcomes project.

Ezekiel Raui (Taipa)

Ezekiel was named 2016 Matariki Young Achiever of the Year in June this year for his ongoing work to lead and support others.

As Head Boy at Taipa College, Raui created a leadership academy and a peer support programme led by young people. The programme gave students a platform to discuss things they may not want to speak to a school counsellor or their parents about.

His aim is to get people talking about their problems, rather than retreating into a state where they start to consider taking their own lives.

The initiative has been taken to the Beehive, with the intention that the programme might be rolled out across the country.

Ezekiel is being mentored by New Zealander of the Year Dr Lance O'Sullivan and in 2015 he was part of a youth leadership delegation invited to Washington DC where he met President Obama.

Jeffrey Peter D'Ath (Ruakaka)

Jeff has spent 25 years as a volunteer fire fighter at Ruakaka Volunteer Fire Brigade.

This year he received his gold star to celebrate his quarter of a century of service. Those 25 years have seen him attending all call-outs possible, saving lives and property, supporting locals through serious accidents and injury, linking with kaumatua to deliver support, writing the Fire Call column for the Bream Bay News, taking the fire truck to community events, and currently serving as the brigade’s senior first responding officer, training officer and personnel manager.

A keen boatie, in 2000 he became one of the founding members of the Whangarei Volunteer Coastguard, having previously been part of a group of local boat owners responding to calls from people whose boats had broken down at sea.

Between 2012 and 2015, Jeff was also a member of the Bream Bay Community Patrol, offering advice, training and stability to a fledgling group of locals assisting the Police by conducting weekend night patrols.

Jeff became an official member of St John on 1 March 2016, and since then has given more than 300 hours to the service and become an integral part of the station by taking on regular 12-hour shifts, helping with fundraising, and attending trainings and call outs, whenever possible.

Nicky Barton

PR Consultant

04 499 6940

0273 060 603

Lv. 12 City Chambers

142 Featherston Street


Related news