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Dunedin man wins 2005 NZer of the Year award

Media release

Thursday 9 December 2004

Dunedin man wins 2005 New Zealander of the Year award

A Dunedin St John paramedic is the South Island’s first-ever winner of the North & South New Zealander of the Year award.

North & South magazine has awarded the annual accolade since 1997 as an acknowledgment of “the good New Zealander”. Editor Robyn Langwell says, as a touchstone of New Zealand life, the publication wants to formally celebrate “every day people who have contributed to the national character”.

Although this year’s winner, 42-year-old St John advanced paramedic Doug Flett, came to national attention earlier this year during a dramatic rescue attempt from a fishing ship deep in the Southern Ocean, Ms Langwell said it was his 20 years of service that made him this year’s stand-out winner.

“Doug Flett is the ultimate carer in a country where all too often we forget how personally satisfying it can be to contribute to others’ well being. When it came to choosing the 2005 New Zealander of the Year no one came close to Doug Flett. We should be deeply thankful, as we go about our safe and neatly ordered lives, that there are people like Flett, taking care of largely unseen dirty business. He captured our admiration, respect and heartfelt thanks for a job so very well done,” said Ms Langwell while presenting the award this evening.

During the presentation she also acknowledged the outstanding commitment and bravery that Mr Flett demonstrated in the Southern Ocean rescue.

On September 6 he was winched by helicopter onto the pitching deck of the fishing ship Aoraki deep in the Southern Ocean. For 11 hours, away from any medical backup and hundreds of miles from land, Mr Flett battled to save the life of Nelson man Hugh Hope, who was trapped in an auger deep inside the ship.

Despite being violently ill himself, Flett remained with Hope in the rank confines of the ship, constantly talking, medicating and reassuring him as he lapsed into unconsciousness and eventually died.

Flett had been honing his life and caring skills for 20 years for just this sort of demanding rescue mission, including a decade and 1000 rescue missions as senior paramedic attached to the Lion Foundation Otago rescue helicopter. This service watches over a mighty chunk of the country — 26 per cent of New Zealand’s landmass, with six per cent of the population.

Ms Langwell says the annual North & South award seeks to find one person whose contribution in the previous year has had a positive impact on all New Zealanders, on the ways in which they live in and think about their country. That person should also reflect the values of how we would want to be as New Zealanders in the future.

Mr Flett’s name joins an honour board of esteemed previous winners:
- Minister of Treaty Negotiations Sir Douglas Graham (1997);
- urban Maori activist and MP John Tamihere (1998);
- Dame Cheryll Sotheran, founding chief executive of Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand (1999);
- Auckland University chancellor and educationalist, John Graham (2000);
- Women’s Refuge leader Merepeka Raukawa Tait (2001);
- Knowledge Wave conference mentor, Auckland University leader, now Oxford head, Dr John Hood (2002);
- sporting philanthropist and Hawke’s Bay guru Graeme Avery (2003);
- Auckland scientists and world-renown researchers Professor Garth Cooper and Professor Jane Harding (2004).

ENDS

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