Credit to his supporters from pillar of the Coast
Waiapu stalwart and Gisborne district councillor Bill Burdett says he was “blown away” when advised he had been nominated for a Queen's Service Order in the New Year's Honours List.
He has been awarded the honour for services to the community and local government.
Mr Burdett told The Gisborne Herald the possibility of such a honour had not occurred to him and he immediately stressed the strong support from the community and partner Natalie had made it possible.
Mr Burdett has been a councillor since 1998 but confirmed that this would be his last term.
In the wider community, he has given 40 years service to Mangahanea Marae, Uepohatu Marae and Whakarua Park Board.
He served as chairman of Te Puawaitanga o Ruatoria Community Trust for 14 years, helped to bring the district council and Te Runanganui o Ngati Porou together on the koka huhua project to fight erosion on the Waiapu River and was a trustee of the runanganui for nine years.
Roading is a perpetual issue for East Coast residents and one Mr Burdett has not hesitated to repeatedly raise on behalf on his constituents.
As a councillor, Mr Burdett has chaired the asset and reserves and infrastructure, wastewater and regional land transport committees.
He spoke highly of former chief executives Bob Elliot and Lindsay Mckenzie, who were “old school”, and said he was fortunate to start his council career under a good mayor in John Clarke, followed by Meng Foon.
Council staff did a wonderful job, “but I don't always agree with them”, he said.
There had been some very good councillors, he said. Elected representatives needed to know their communities, the issues and how the council operated.
“You can't go in cold and be successful.”
Driving the long distance home to his farm after council meetings gave him the opportunity to reflect on council issues and decisions.
It could be frustrating, he said.
The council, in recent years, had to improve its levels of consultation.
He was concerned by affordability, rising costs to ratepayers and the impact of decisions made by bureaucrats living in Wellington.
Mr Burdett said he “was not a New Zealand First man” but the role played by former Economic Development Minister Shane Jones in implementing the Provincial Growth Fund had immensely benefited Tairawhiti.
Mr Burdett has strongly supported sports such as hunting, horse racing and tennis.
But it is no secret that rugby is his passion.
No job has been too small for him within the national game.
As the long-serving chairman of the East Coast Rugby Football Union it was no surprise to see him on the gate at Ruatoria's Whakarua Park.
At a national level he rubbed shoulders with rugby royalty such as Sir Colin Meads and Sir Brian Lochore, both strong supporters of small unions such as East Coast, a union not too dissimilar to those they played for.
He has seen the highs and lows of rugby on the Coast — from victorious national championship third division finals, a second division final appearance and a memorable Meads Cup Heartland Championship victory, to cheering crowds greeting the team at Gisborne Airport and a week-long celebratory party. He also remembers “fighting off” three attempts at amalgamation — including “from within”.
Mr Burdett was proud to play for just one club on the Coast — Ruatoria City for which he also served as president, secretary and treasurer.
He also wore the sky blue of East Coast.