Waitaki Citizens Awards 2018

11/09/2018 10:00 a.m.

​​​​There were tears and plenty of smiles at the Waitaki District Council’s 2018 Citizens Awards, held at the Oamaru Opera house on Monday. After being piped in by Callum Bishop, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher acknowledged the ten very special Oamaruvians due to be honoured for their outstanding contributions to the community. It speaks to the humble nature of North Otago people that all were invariably described as ‘unsung heroes,’ and ‘fly-under-the-radar’ types. 

Beryl Aker, who’s citation for long years of service volunteering in the fields of scouting and fundraising was presented by Cr Melanie Tavendale (an ex scout herself), had spent twenty years on the cooking team for the cavalcade. She set the tone of delight, declaring herself “very thankful” for thanks so richly deserved. Ross Babington, awarded for his work in pest control and planting at the cape, was described by Cr Peter Garvan as a quiet achiever, who had spent his free hours protecting and enhancing our wildlife. The ‘stick sisters’: Elaine Bishop and Lois Sweet, were honoured for their contributions to Victim Support. Their family members had come to town for this proud moment from Auckland, Melbourne and Te Anau. Driven by a passion for helping people, the sisters declared that they’ll keep going ‘while we can still walk’. 

Recipients were often embarrassed and at pains to tell the audience they hadn’t done it alone, when the truth was they were each one, a leading light. Those who received citations were: Beryl Aker, Ross Babington, Cecilia Baxter (Sandra Tonkin accepted the award on her behalf), Elaine Bishop & Lois Sweet, June Cameron, Bruce Comfort, Janice Hayes, Wayne Fisher-Hewitt and Joy Rusbatch.​

Beryl Aker

Beryl joined St Joseph's Scout's group in Christchurch, where she did most of her training. When she moved to Oamaru with her family Beryl joined St Patrick's Scouts. After becoming cub leader and then district zone leader Beryl then moved onto Sea Scouts where she was involved for 25 years as group leader and zone leader. In 2009 Beryl received the Silver Tiki Award which is the second highest award in the scouting movement for services to scouting. Over the years Beryl has attended 11 Jamborees in NZ and Australia, and three National Regattas. She has been fully involved in many fundraising events including part of the cooking team for the cavalcade for 20 years, breakfasts for Relay for Life, and the wood­turner's dinners, with all funds coming back to scouts. ​

Beryl has recently retired from cooking duties at Southanjer Rest Home and has been asked to come back to St Patrick's Scouts, her commitment is truly outstanding and the driving force of Scouting in North Otago.

Ross Babington​

Ross has had an interest with Forest and Bird all his life, he became a member of the Dunedin branch until the Waitaki Branch was formed in 1984.  He has made a significant contribution with his volunteer work. He was the first chairperson of Forest and Bird Waitaki Branch. An active committee member, he generously gave his time for field trips and working bees. This work has also involved protecting and enhancing our natural environment and helping people connect with nature. Ross was involved in work to protect both yellow-eyed and little blue Penguins before Oamaru was so well known for these natural attractions.  

Ross has given many hours of voluntary service to enhancing and protecting our local wildlife and plants. He has been a quiet achiever in the back ground who contributes hugely to the Waitaki community.

Cecilia Baxter​

Cecilia is an active member within the local Filipino Community; Cecilia joined the committee of the Waitaki Multicultural Council in 2010 and became the Chairperson in 2011 and holds that position currently. As chairperson she has lead the organization which provides services such as the important Migrant Support service, and the Newcomers Network group. She has also been involved with helping the Race Relations dinners and Race Relation concerts which are held at the opera house, and she has the role of teaching the dancers.Cecilia received a Merit Award of Service to NZ Federation of Multicultural Inc at this year's AGM. She organises potluck dinners and the entertainment for the different cultures every three months at the Pembroke hall. 

Cecilia is passionate and dedicates her time and energy and we commend her leadership and commitment to the Waitaki Multicultural Council, helping so many immigrants to call Waitaki home. ​

Elaine Bishop and Lois Sweet - Waitaki Citizens AwardsElaine Bishop and Lois Sweet 

Sisters, Elaine Bishop and Lois Sweet, have been involved with volunteer organisations for most of their lives. Elaine took on the role of community coordinator for the Kakanui meals-on-wheels service, and Lois also was involved with meals-on-wheels for Age Concern in Oamaru. Elaine and Lois became involved with Victim Support as volunteers many years ago, with Elaine receiving training to assist with homicide situations, and Lois with suicide. They both moved to being Victim Support Committee members. They have attended a huge number of calls to assist Police, and helped numerous people in stressful situations by providing practical support and assistance. From being involved with Victim Support they gained an empathy for the work that the Police do, so embarked on many voluntary roles to help in the background. Elaine and Lois have been regular panelists for both Restorative Justice and Diversions and they are nominated to be present when under 17-year-olds are brought to the Police Station for questioning. 

They have been nominated together because they have worked in the community together and are well known as a double-act assisting Police and other agencies. ​

June Cameron​

June began teaching the piano in 1968, at first with just a few pupils on her books but this quickly grew into having at one time 50 pupils learning the piano and she continued with this for 29 years. June has been an accompanist for instrumental, violin, singing, ballet and clarinet pupils for their examinations, and for their competitions for 25 years. She is very supportive and empathetic for all performers young and old, and some of her younger performers have gone on to develop careers in music. She has also been an accompanist to many other groups, Primary School Choirs, Folk Dance evenings, Waitaki Valley Women's Choir, Anzac Day Services at Waitaki Boys' High School, and she formed the Men's Quartet. June revitalized the choral society from 1995 until 2012. 

June's contribution to music in the Waitaki is immeasurable and her focus is always on the music and the performance. She seeks perfection but accepts reality and encourages all performers. June has used her skill and expertise to make music available to the community, and the Waitaki District has been the richer for her musical talent. ​

Bruce Comfort

Bruce retired to Oamaru 13 years ago, when he was enticed by Oamaru's deep heritage - particularly what people made and achieved. Bruce has undertaken the task of researching and recording various structures of historical significance unique to the Waitaki District. He is helping to preserve local engineering history in a format that makes is accessible to future generations. These include the Oamaru Harbour Breakwater, Meeks Elevator Building, Lime Kilns, War Memorials, Oamaru Borough Water Race, Electricity Generation in Oamaru. Bruce has featured in a number of television documentaries and is considered our local expert on many Heritage matters. 

Bruce loves to talk and enjoys sharing his knowledge with groups, he is passionate about history and the pioneering efforts of our engineers. He likes to publicize things that are an interest to our visitors, and he is in daily contact with Heritage NZ to inform them of his findings. Bruce's dedication, displaying and sharing our local history for the benefit of the Waitaki District deserves to be recognised. ​

Janice Hayes

During Janice's almost 50-year continuous association with the Noth otago Highland Pipe Band, Janice has held various offices including Pipe Major in 2005 to 2018, and Committee secretary from 2007. She became the first woman to be awarded Life Membership for her service to the band. As well as Janice's band involvement locally, she has been the delegate from the North Otago Highland Pipe Band to the Pipe Band Association South Canterbury Centre for the last 16 years, and Secretary to the Centre for 10 of those years. Since the 1970's Janice has piped at many contests, events & displays all over the South Island and during her solo piping career she reached the level of B-grade piper. Janice joined the North Otago Scottish Society's Ladies Committee in 1974 and then the main Council in 1991. Janice was elected to the office of Chief, being only the second woman in the society's history to do so. Janice remains the official piper for both the North Otago and Waimate Scottish Societies, both roles she has served for 25 years. Her work with the Scottish Society includes coordinating the Ingleside Concerts and the Society's Annual Ball, and many other public social events the Society has put together. For her dedication to the North Otago Scottish Society Janice was awarded Life membership in May of this year.

Janice's passion and outstanding dedication for involving herself in local groups also extends to her volunteer work with the St John Hospitalliers and within her church community. For all the above, the Waitaki District is very fortunate for her dedicated commitment. ​

​Joy Rusbatch 

Joy has been an active member of St John's for 37 years, and an "on call" volunteer for St John's Ambulance for many more years. She was one of the earliest members of Hospitaller's, as well as serving other arms of the order. Joy received the Venerable Order of St John in 1984.​ Joy was also on the committee of the North Otago Branch of the Heart Foundation and in 1993 as the representative of the Cardiac Support Group. Joy was honored by the Heart Foundation with an Award of Merit in October 2009.Joy continued her active involvement attending monthly meetings and assisting with projects until her resignation in 2016. She's also been President of the RSA Women's Section for many years, and  received a longtime service Award in 2013 for this. She was a member of the Oamaru electronic organ club for 36 years and is still an active member. She has been involved with the Red Cross for many years, has been an Iona Support volunteer for 15 years and still helps with this today. ​ 

Joy is truly an outstanding member of the community, and the Waitaki District is very fortunate for her continued giving. She is a very special lady and a worthy recipient of this award.​

Wayne Fisher-Hewitt 

Wayne's immense role in the two Portside Punches held in 2014 and 2018, and the tremendous amount raised totaling nearly a quarter of a million dollars for North Otago Hospice was, amongst other contributions, what has spurred this nomination. Wayne was there as a mentor, advisor, motivator, trainer and father figure to all the participants so they were equipped with the confidence and skills to step into a boxing ring in front of 500 people. Wayne's ongoing commitment to four months of training boxers not only in fitness but boxing skills is incredible, giving up many nights and early mornings each week.  Wayne has also had other important roles in our community that go largely unnoticed. In the 1980's the Fisher-Hewitt family took in foster children, Wayne was always there for kids needing a helping hand. ​ Wayne also finds time to help parents with troubled children by teaching them the discipline of boxing and important core values. He teaches them life skills, discipline and respect, and is the father figure to many of these kids and a person they can trust.  Other organizations and clubs Wayne has been involved with include The Papakaio Hall fund raising committee, School sports coach (rugby & football), Oamaru Boxing Association, North Otago Tennis Association, & North Otago Badminton. 

Wayne is an amazing individual, held in the greatest respect for his mentoring and guidance to people, young and old and from all walks of life, and for encouraging them to believe in themselves.


Page reviewed: 14 Sep 2018 9:17am