Leading Waitakians recognised at 2023 Citizens Awards

Published on 21 September 2023

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At the awards, Piper Rowan Blair piped in the Mayor, Councillors, Community Board Chairs and award recipients.

Tania Bungard, Mike Harris, John Hore, Phillip Nicolson, Frances Oakes, Alison Simpson, Gilda Sparks, Helen Stead, Ian and Joan Sutherland and Toeafiafi Taiti were presented with their awards by the Mayor Gary Kircher, Deputy Mayor Hana Halalele, Waitaki District Councillors Holding, Blackler, Thomson, Ryan, Hopkins and Linwood and Chair’s of both Waihemo and Ahuriri Community Boards, Heather McGregor and Calum Reid.

The Waitaki Citizens' Awards are given in recognition of substantial services, usually of a voluntary nature or beyond normal employment, benefiting the Waitaki District and its people. Any volunteer of any age, or a voluntary organisation which carries out service or work of a substantial (either length of time or intensity of service) nature benefiting the Waitaki district and/or its people, that has not been recognised by a national award or honour for this service - eg a Queen’s Honour - can be nominated for a Citizens’ Award. The qualifying categories include recreation, youth activities, social welfare, educational services, cultural affairs, religious affairs, community affairs and any other voluntary service which contributes to furthering the vision of the Waitaki district. Work of a ‘substantial nature’ is defined as short or long term projects or activities that have benefited the district in such a way as to have added to the quality of life of the residents.

2023 Citizens Awards Recipient Details

Tania Bungard

Tania’s greatest community achievement, which has benefited the East Otago area immensely, is being instrumental in establishing the St John Ambulance service in Palmerston. She was a driving force in the process for a long time before it was officially opened/operational in 2013.

Tania represents St John Palmerston in many ways; public speaking and demonstrations to c ommunity groups, careers evenings at EOHS, being involved in the Emergency Management and Civil Defence. She recently received a Civil Defence Award for 10 years long service. She is currently looking at volunteering to provide CPR training to the local an d wider community.

Other service groups that Tania has been involved in include Palmerston and East Otago Plunket, Palmerston Playcentre, Palmerston Primary School PTA, East Otago High School Board of Trustees Vice Chairperson/Chairperson and East Ota go Musical Theatre.

Mike Harris

Mike established the Friendly Bay Boat Society in 2010, a group of boating enthusiasts who helped to build a sense of harbourside community. Mike was part of the group that coordinated the Harbour Regatta/Harbour Day and Coracle Race on the Oamaru Harbour for several years.

Mike is well-known in the Waitaki community for his generosity of time, helping others with personal projects but also on community endeavours. His work on and around Harbour Street benefits the well-being of the Waitaki District and its citizens in many, many ways.

When his boat Black Crow sank in the harbour recently Mike demonstrated vast reserves of resilience and modelled the kind of citizen the Waitaki District can be proud of. He hopes to be back out on the water soon with a new boat and may yet revive the Oamaru Harbour regattas.

John Hore

Almost any activity or project undertaken by residents in the Duntroon community over the last sixty or more years has involved John Hore at some point. Whether that be shifting the bridge span form the old road rail bridge back in 1970’s, the building of the boardwalks and bridges at the Duntroon wetlands, the planting of trees and removing broom, carving out the walkway to a fossil site at Anatini /Elephant Rocks, or scrambling about at a lime quarry in the Hakataramea Valley to locate and transport fossil laden rock to Vanished World so visitors can dig their own fossils. This is not even a close to a complete list!

That’s not all, John and his ever supportive wife Margaret have also shared their supportive wife Margaret have also shared their own property with thousands of visitors over the years, allowing the public and own property with thousands of visitors over the years, allowing the public and even the film industry to enjoy Anatini (Elephant Rocks) the fossils that lie within even the film industry to enjoy Anatini (Elephant Rocks) the fossils that lie within and, more recently, the popular Alps to and, more recently, the popular Alps to Ocean Trail. Ocean Trail.

Phillip Nicolson

Phillip’s dedication to the Hampden Volunteer Fire Brigade is exceptional, he has been a part of the Hampden Fire Brigade since 1973, 50 years of providing vital services to the community and surrounding area. Phillip was made a life member of the Hampden Volunteer Fire Brigade in 2019 and has continues to be on call today. He gets a great feeling of helping people when they need it the most.

Phillip has a true sense of community and is willing to help out with his time and resources. He has attended countless meetings, working bees and community events over the years. He quietly helps others in the community outside of the organisations he is involved with and a great well-respected neighbour.

Frances Oakes

Frances has helped to trailblaze pathways for Pacific people in the Waitaki District by establishing Pacific community led groups such as Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group Inc (OPICG) in 1998, the Oamaru Pacific Island network and establishing the Waitaki Tongan Community Trust.

Frances has also one of the driving forces to support and maintain OPICG’s Friday Cultural Programme which serves to maintain culture and language programmes, delivered to New Zealand born Pacific children, to help retain their culture and language in Waitaki. She has dedicated much of our work and community life to supporting and advocating for our Pacific community.

Frances, in her capacity as Chairperson for the Oamaru Pacific Island Network, also supported the delivery of the Talanoa Ako programme in 2018 which has had a profound impact for our Pacific community and became a national model of delivery.

Alison Simpson

Alison has a strong sense of community and has been on the vestry committee of the Anglican Church in Kurow and Duntroon for 70 years. Her work with the Tokarahi Branch of Rural Women’s Division was rewarded with a “Branch Honour”, as well as receiving a 2022 Life Membership with the New Zealand Iris Society for 35 years of involvement and passion for the beautiful Iris flower.

When Professor Ewan Fordyce discovered fossils on the Simpson farm, Alison thought it only appropriate they remain in the local area, to be viewed by visitors to the Waitaki Valley. When the concept of the Vanished World Heritage Centre was mooted around the year 2000, Alison joined the group. Taking charge of managing the Centre, she continued in that role until Waitaki Whitestone Geopark took over recently. In 2022 Alison was presented with a Life Membership to the Vanished World Heritage Centre for her dedication and acknowledgement of her managerial skills.

Gilda Sparks

Gilda has been the secretary for the North Otago Indoor bowls for 26 years and does an amazing job. She keeps things ticking over smoothly, makes sure that the minutes get out quickly, and is vital in organizing transport and accommodation for North Otago’s representative games. She keeps prices for meals reasonable and until recently was buying and cooking meals when necessary for tournaments hosted by North Otago Bowls.

Gilda is a qualified umpire and even takes over as treasurer when the usual treasurer os on holiday. She has been manager for various trips and centre representative games. She keeps track of who has won what and is responsible for having cups engraves and on time for closing night.

Helen Stead

Helen was the third woman to be elected Councillor to the Oamaru Borough Council (1977 – 1989) and then later served on the Waitaki District Council (2004 – 2013). She was a board member of New Zealand Historic Places Trust (1986-1993) as well as holding positions locally in numerous different organizations.

She was one of the three people setting up the North Otago branch of the Historic Places Trust and later setting up the Whitestone Civic Trust doing Conservations Histories for several historic buildings. She was chairperson of the steering group to redevelop the Forrester Gallery & North Otago Museum & Waitaki Archive. Helen is also well known as a tour operator, with her famous walking tours of the Historic Precinct, the Old Cemetery and the epic Moonlight Promenades

Joan Sutherland

Joan has been, and continues to be, a strong supporter of the Hampden Branch of Rural Women for many years. She is always there when Rural Women are undertaking benevolent activities such as raffles for worthy causes, running the Pink Ribbon Breakfast raising money for Breast Cancer, organising messages for member who are ill, and welcoming new women to the area.

Joan is a long-standing devoted member of the Presbyterian Church in Hampden and the wider parish, organising services, taking services in a lay capacity, organising the cleaning roster, undertaking a full range of parish activities and in short, has been a tower of strength in the life of the church over the last 50 years.

Ian Sutherland

Ian is very supportive of community initiatives; and currently is actively involved with Mountain Biking North Otago. For the last 10 years Ian has been building, developing, and maintaining tracks mainly through the Blakely Pacific-owned Herbert Forest.

Other groups and organisations Ian has been involved with include – 40 years with Hampden Tennis Club as well as competing at National Level via North Otago Dog Trails which he was highly regarded in the sport. The list goes on, North Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club, Federated Farmers, North Otago Search and Rescue, Hampden School Board of Trustees, Waianakaru and Kuri Creek Native Planting Group, Whitestone Rock n Roll Club and more.

Ian says “If you don’t participate in small communities the community doesn’t grow,” Well, the Hampden Community is certainly growing and thriving with the years of hard work, love and commitment to his Community.

Toeafiafi Taiti

Toeafiafi has pioneered pathways for Pacific in the Waitaki District by establishing community led groups and organisations. The first was establishing the Ōamaru PACIFICA (Pacific Allied (Women’s) Council Inspires Faith in Ideals Concerning All) Women’s branch in 1986, formed under the umbrella of the National PACIFICA Women’s organization.

Toe was also one of the driving forces to establish the Ōamaru Pacific Island Culture and Language Nest in 1987. The premises for this was at the Ōamaru Playcentre site in Trent Street Ōamaru. Culture and language programmes were delivered to predominately New Zealand born Pasifika children to help retain their culture and language.

To date, Toe remains an active Committee member for OPICG which has been running for 36 years. In addition to the cultural activities programme, it has an established social and health outreach services which supported Waitaki with COVID-19 vaccination clinics, COVID-19 welfare support and additional employment, education, social and health support.

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