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Five honoured exemplify unique make-up and spirit of district

Opinion Piece

Queen’s Birthday Honours for five local people put a final shine on an enjoyable winter holiday for the Gisborne district and indeed much of the country.

Two classic men of the land, Andy Stevenson and Merv Utting, were made members of the NZ Order of Merit while the district’s thriving and constantly evolving Maori community also got recognition with Dr Peetikuia Wainui, Tina Porou and the Rev Raunikau Stainton honoured.

Andy Stevenson is an icon of the aerial topdressing industry which is so important to this district and in which he has been active for more than 50 years.

Waimata farmer Merv Utting occupies a similar position in the world of dog trialling, a classic New Zealand competitive sport demanding intense concentration and skill. Now 73, Utting took part in the South Island and New Zealand championships last week.

Also joining the NZ Order of Merit is Dr Peetikuia Wainui, who received wide acclaim for taking the meningococcal B immunisation project to hard-to-reach whanau in the Wellington region. She now lives in Whatatutu and is an active volunteer.

Tina Porou, who holds a range of leadership positions on iwi trusts and is the head of sustainability for Contact Energy, also received the MNZM. Porou has a long record of working to protect the natural environment and was involved in the establishment of the recent joint management agreement between Gisborne District Council and Ngati Porou.

Hicks Bay resident the Rev Raunikau Stainton, a faithful servant of the Wharekahika community, was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal.

The honours system comes in for regular criticism in some quarters but this quintet’s quality would disarm that. All five exemplify the unique make-up and spirit of the Tairawhiti district.

The three-day holiday was blessed by some fine but cold weather, typical of what can be expected at this time of the year.

Unfortunately the gap to the next public holiday at Labour Weekend is a depressing 139 days . . . never mind, at least we have this one to look back on.