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Local heroes honoured

SEVENTEEN of Gisborne’s local heroes were honoured for their contribution to the community at the annual Kiwibank Local Heroes Awards last night.

The event was part of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards 2018, and they received their medals at a ceremony at the Bushmere Arms.

Mayor Meng Foon presented the medals and congratulated the recipients for their achievements.

The award ceremony was a fantastic and vital opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of many in the region, he said.

“This year’s recipients are selfless, loving and dedicated people who have all impacted our community in unique ways.

“The positive difference they have made to the lives of others cannot be overstated. It’s important we as a community take time to reflect and acknowledge the special place these people hold in our lives.”

Local hero medals will be presented to 340 recipients nationwide over the next few weeks, with one national winner to be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Gala Awards in Auckland in February.

The 17 Gisborne local heroes¦ Padre William Gray (Tolaga Bay): A significant contributor to the community of Uawa. He can engage everyone, garnering co-operation from individuals and the community. His commitment to the Anzac spirit led him to ensure that the many men and women who have served in New Zealand services were awarded the New Zealand Defence Service Medal. Padre’s achievements for his services include being chairman of Te Rawheoro Marae since 2000 and sitting on the Te Aitangi-a-Hauiti iwi forum of six local marae. He is also a trustee for Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti, Tolaga Bay Area School and Kahukuranui.

¦ Ralph Walker: Known to many as Papa Rau, a prolific community volunteer, offering his time, knowledge, wisdom and support to many local groups, including the Poverty Bay Blues Club, Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Art, Friends of Tairawhiti Museum, Tauawhi Men’s Centre, Te Runanganui O Ngati Porou and the Palpung Kagyu Samten Choling Tibetan Buddhist Centre. Mr Walker is a part of the local arts scene, contributing, supporting and promoting local artists and events. He has put in countless hours promoting the wellbeing of the people, the culture and region.

¦ Catharine White: A retired nurse involved with many groups such as the CCS Disability Action, Gisborne Housing Advisory Group, Habitat for Humanity, Association of Anglican Women, Awhi Mai Awhi Atu, National Council of Women, Gisborne Hospital Chaplaincy Service, Maori Women’s Welfare League and the Te Hapara Whanau Aroha organisation. For the past five years Catharine has had an association with the Department of Corrections, with offenders coming to her to perform community service. Catharine values this opportunity as a time to share her knowledge and skills with these mostly young offenders. Catharine continues to give back to the community and creates a great legacy through her positive work.

¦ Norman Maclean: Known to many as “Mr Unity Theatre”, he has been a member of the Arts Community Centre since 1966. He has served on the committee and as president for several terms, and now runs Unity Youth Theatre. Mr Maclean has directed many plays, mentored numerous actors and fledgling directors, as well as working tirelessly behind the scenes with set design, construction, painting, designing costumes and props. He is widely acknowledged for his effort and commitment to the theatre.

¦ Elizabeth Clark: Works tirelessly with the Women’s Institute in Gisborne, president for four years, she helps transport people who can't drive, visits hospitals and rest homes, and sends cards and parcels to those out of town. She is also co-ordinator of the show court at the A and P Show. An accomplished photographer, her images appear in the institute’s magazine and national scrapbooks. She assists in fundraising and support initiatives, including Cancer Society’s Daffodil Day and the Stand Children’s Health Camp Village. She also makes meals for people with dementia and works each year on Christmas floats in the annual Gisborne city parade.

¦ Dr Nicholas Wright: A Gisborne-based GP and graduate of the University of Otago Medical school. After hours, he works with Morgen Smith to run a plant-based lifestyle change programme in the community for groups of 20-30 patients per session. The pair have run the programme for four years, achieving outstanding results that have been published in a range of journals. Dr Wright is known for going the extra mile and has made a huge difference in many people's lives.

¦ Niki Maanga Hitaua: Her day starts early. From 5am she mentors groups of year 11 and 12 students, building their skills in team leadership as part of the Atawhai programme. In 2009, she trained to be a Maori warden, assisting people and making sure they are fed, clothed, showered and safe. She drives a van on night patrol, picking up children and taking them home. She is also a member of the Puha Health League, promoting fellowship and understanding among Maori and European women.

¦ Judith Ann Ball: Involved in running community fund-raisers for the Women’s Institute. She is a member of the Relay for Life team for all Gisborne relays, raising money for the charity. During the event, she cooks breakfast for more than 300 participants. She assists with baking and catering for fundraisers, as well as knitting clothing and slippers for premature babies and children staying in hospital for treatment in Auckland. She has collected for many street appeals, and supports the local Te Kainga Whaiora Children’s Village Health Camp with toiletries, clothes and school arts and craft goods.

¦ Connor Mitchell: Has made a significant impact on the surf lifesaving community in Gisborne. He serves on the lifeguard committee at the club and local levels, and is also a part of the water safety committee for regional and national events. As part of his work for the club, he initiates, manages and facilitates the IRB development programme for the district alongside another senior lifeguard from Midway. He became an IRB instructor this season, completing and obtaining a national title in tube rescue at the IRB Nationals. At just 18, Connor is a great role model for lifeguards of all ages.

¦ Pru Clayden: Co-ordinator of the Gisborne Meals on Wheels service, she assists with the rosters for the runs, and often works above and beyond when there are driver shortages. Her time and immense effort does not go unnoticed and these groups would not be the same without her dedication to the Gisborne community.

¦ Duncan Chisholm: Has worked tirelessly over the years with Centre Stage, Gisborne Host Lions and St John Ambulance. Despite his busy life, he finds the time to train St John cadets, as well as helping at Unity Theatre and Musical Theatre. He always finds time to help others in the community with his positive and caring nature. He was a recipient of a Citizen Civil Award last from Gisborne District Council, for his effort and commitment to the Gisborne community.

¦ Alice Kibble: Has had a long career with services, groups and committees serving the community. She assists with fund-raising for charities, such as the Cancer Society, helping individuals with reading programmes at the local library, planting vegetable seedlings, leading Gisborne Girls’ High School’s environment group and encouraging students to make cloth bags. She gives her time and shares her knowledge willingly, teaching others how to use technology or raising awareness of issues in her community.

¦ Bronwyn Kay: Runs a successful real estate company, employing 20 staff members from Gisborne to Hawke’s Bay. Known for her generosity and dedication to her staff, family and the Gisborne community, she frequently donates to local charities and provides financial support to many of her staff. A well-respected member of the Gisborne community who always puts the needs of others first.

¦ Cherie Anne Knight: Spends countless hours volunteering at numerous organisations within the Gisborne community. She has worked with the Gisborne Volunteer Centre, Red Cross, Gisborne Police Camera Trust, Habitat Restore and East Coast Museum of Technology. She is always willing to help other individuals in the community. She was awarded a civic award by Gisborne District Council last year for her charity work.

¦ Baljeet Sandhu: An extraordinary individual who supports the community of Gisborne in a variety of ways while running his own restaurant, Bollywood Stars. He has given support and time, and always volunteers to be a helping hand in the community. He and a group of volunteers provided free lunches for 123 people at his restaurant in July, helping to feed the homeless and those on low incomes. Only expecting to provide for 100 people, he was quick to cook for more with his staff and volunteers happy to help. He has since provided more free lunches, hoping to continue doing so weekly for those in need.

¦ Angela Hill: Passionate about helping those with mental illness in her community and currently works with the Council of Social Services. Eleven years ago, she established a service to help to assist those challenged mental, emotional and physical issues to gain confidence and societal acceptance through art and crafts. Funding constraints meant she had to battle for financial support and a new venue, to allow the group to continue to develop their skills to reach their potential. Many individuals in the Gisborne community have been positively affected by her actions.

¦ Loraine Lawson-Barrett (Opotiki): A fantastic representative of Opotiki School and the community. For 12 years she has been a member of the Opotiki College Cadet Unit, the largest youth volunteer group in Opotiki. Lorraine has been the unit commander since 2014 and takes pride in seeing the young cadets transition and develop into young adults, ready to meet the challenges of entering the work force or entering into careers in the armed forces. As leader of Opotiki College’s Gateway Programme, Lorraine is responsible for creating and delivering a programme designed to assist the placement of more than 40 students in the workforce armed with skills and confidence.

CONTRIBUTORS TO THE COMMUNITY: Gisborne’s latest local heroes gathered last night for the bestowing of their awards; everyday people who do extraordinary things for the Gisborne community. At the back, from left, are Elizabeth Clark, Baljeet Sandhu, Dr Nick Wright, Norman Maclean, Duncan Chisholm, Alice Kibble, Lorraine Lawson-Barrett, Michelle Mitchell who collected her son Connor’s medal, and Angela Hill. In front are Judith Ann Ball, Cherie Ann Knight, Pru Clayden, Catharine White, Niki Maanga Hitaua, Padre William Gray, Ralph Walker and Bronwyn Kay. Picture by Stephen Jones