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Blair Vining passes away

Blair Vining media release

Father-of-two Blair Vining, the Winton man who tirelessly campaigned for the reform of cancer treatment throughout New Zealand, has passed away.

Blair’s wife Melissa and their two daughters, Della-May and Lilly, will miss him immensely. They are exceptionally proud that the man they will continue to love forever left the world a better place.

To people up and down the country, Blair Vining was an extraordinary man: turning his own tragedy into a battle to ensure better cancer care for all New Zealanders.

But to those who knew him, Blair Vining is extraordinary for different reasons. He was a loving father, husband, dedicated coach and loyal mate, the South Island’s biggest Chiefs supporter, the Midlands rugby club’s most-capped player and its youngest life member.

He remained courageous and positive despite staggering odds.

He was the epitome of a humble Southland man who enjoyed the simple things in life, like farming and rugby, thrust into the spotlight when he discovered the inequitable situation many southerners like him found themselves in, following his 2018 cancer diagnosis.

When his cancer was diagnosed, Blair was told he had mere weeks to live. Because of chronic under-resourcing in his region, he was unlikely to see a specialist before the cancer took his life.

It became his personal mission to see reform to the way cancer is treated throughout New Zealand. He and his wife Melissa worked tirelessly to make access to cancer care more equal for all Kiwis, presenting a petition of more than 140,000 signatures to set up a national cancer agency to Parliament.

As a direct result of his campaigning, the Government announced its Cancer Action Plan. The plan included a pledge for an extra $60 million to Pharmac to fund cancer medicines, the establishment of a Cancer Control Agency, and the appointment of a national director of cancer control. Blair and Melissa also drove discussions about the need for a charitable hospital in Southland.

He and Melissa renewed their vows, he played one last epic game of rugby in front of a crowd of 4500 people (the game won Southland Sporting Moment of the year), and set up the Blair Vining Sports Foundation to help local athletes reach their sporting potential. He held a “final farewell” attended by more than 650 people, he tirelessly fundraised to send his beloved Central Southland First XV rugby team, which he coached, on a pre-season trip to Australia. He proudly watched elder daughter Della-May represent nationally for the Aotearoa Maori Netball Team and achieve her goal to become a Steel training partner, and he and Lilly shared a dance together at his vow renewal ceremony – a bittersweet moment that both wished would have been shared at her wedding.

He was also recently announced as a nominee for New Zealander of the Year.

The fact Blair managed to tick off so many ‘bucket list’ items while fighting an aggressive form of bowel cancer is testament to his grit and desire to live life to the fullest, while it remained within his grasp.

Blair Vining was 39 years old.

Details regarding an opportunity for the public to take part in a memorial service will be released at a later time.


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