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Fire and Emergency honours’ recipients congratulated

Fire and Emergency New Zealand Chief Executive, Rhys Jones has congratulated six firefighters from Milton (Otago), Auckland, Matata (Bay of Plenty), Warkworth, Carterton, and Whitianga who were named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list released today.

"Reading their citations is a reminder of how lucky we are at Fire and Emergency to have such talented and dedicated people put themselves forward to serve their communities," said Mr Jones.

"On behalf of all New Zealanders, I would like to thank them for their service and congratulate them on receiving this honour."

Four of those being honoured today received Queen’s Service Medals for services to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the community. They are:

Alan Tapp (Milton, Otago)

Alan has been a member of the Milton Volunteer Fire Brigade since October 1971, holding the role of Chief Fire Officer between 1997 and 2015. During his 48-year service he has been heavily involved in the South Otago Sub Association, the Otago/Southland Provincial Fire Brigades Association and the United Fire Brigades Association Waterways Challenge Competition. He is a life member of the Milton Volunteer Fire Brigade, the South Otago Sub Association and the Otago/Southland Provincial Fire Brigades Association.

Alan has also been heavily involved in the Lions Club, New Zealand Land Search and Rescue (LandSAR), local emergency services groups, and several rugby coaching, committee and management roles.

Garth Cowley (Auckland)

Garth was first employed by the New Zealand Fire Service (now Fire and Emergency New Zealand) in November 1976. During his 40-year career, Garth was heavily involved in the Auckland Metropolitan Firefighter Welfare Society, supporting injured or sick firefighters and their families, maintaining contact and carrying out chores, usually in his own time.

Garth also served in the Royal NZ Navy from 1967 to 1976. During this service he helped to rescue survivors and recover bodies from the Wahine wreck. In 2002 Garth received the New Zealand Special Achievement Award for guiding blind athletes to complete the New York Marathon.

Bronwyn (Bonnie) Dobson (Matata, Bay of Plenty)

Bonnie has been involved with the Matata Volunteer Fire Brigade since 1981, providing administrative support before she became an operational support senior firefighter in September 1998.

In 2004 Bonnie played a key role in the Matata brigade gaining Medical First Response status, enabling it to provide a faster response to local medical emergencies. This included fundraising for a dedicated vehicle and equipment. She currently co-leads and promotes the brigade’s medical first response unit.

During the devastating Matata floods in 2005 Bonnie was instrumental in setting up a recording system to account for residents who were rescued and evacuated from the township, and helped collect and distribute donated goods. She has also served with St John both as a volunteer and career officer, served as a Board Trustee of Matata Primary School, worked for the local book exchange library and been heavily involved in the running of the Matata Rugby and Sports Club.

Gary Aitken (Warkworth)

Gary has been a volunteer firefighter for 53 years, serving with the Opunake Volunteer Fire Brigade from January 1966, and then Warkworth Volunteer Fire Brigade from 1970. He has held a number of positions within the Warkworth brigade, including Chief Fire Officer between 1999 and 2002, when he led the brigade through the process to rebuild the fire station. He is currently a non-operational support officer.

He has represented the NZ Fire Service (now Fire and Emergency New Zealand) on several district and regional committees and holds Life Memberships for both the Auckland Suburban and Districts Fire Brigade’s Sub-Associations, the Auckland Provincial Fire Brigades Association, Warkworth Volunteer Fire Brigade, and the Auckland Provincial Fire Brigades Gold Star Association.

Gary has supported the Opunake and Warkworth communities through a multitude of other roles, including treasurer of the Opunake St John Ambulance Association and Opunake Rugby Football Club, secretary of the Warkworth Tennis and Squash Club, and Justice of the Peace.

Mr Jones also congratulated two other firefighters for being recognised for their services. They are:

Mr Bryan Styles (Carterton), for services to the United Fire Brigades Association and the community.

Mr Bryan Styles is Chief Fire Officer of the Carterton Volunteer Fire Brigade of which he has been a member since 1980. Mr Styles was a member of the United Fire Brigades Association Technical Panel from 2005 to 2010 and was involved with overseeing the organisation of UFBA firefighter competitions. In 2013 he was elected Vice President and later President of the United Fire Brigades’ Association of New Zealand until 2014. In this role he has advocated for all 585 member brigades and fire forces, representing UFBA member interests on various New Zealand Fire Service committees and interest groups.

He has been a Trustee of the UFBA Benevolent Fund, which provides financial assistance to firefighters and their families in times of financial stress. He was made a Life Member of the UFBA in 2014.

Through the Carterton Fire Brigade, he has supported the Gladstone and Carterton Rugby Football Clubs. Mr Styles has had a past career as a representative rugby player, representing Wairarapa Bush in more than 100 first class games and was selected for New Zealand Rugby Union Divisional teams.

Mr David Findon Wight (Whitianga), for services to the community.

Mr David Wight has contributed to his local Opito Bay and Kuaotunu community in the Coromandel since 1973. Mr Wight played a significant role in establishing key services to the local community, such as helping lead negotiations to create an electricity supply to Opito Bay in the 1970s.

In 1976 he initiated the New Year’s Day event of beach activities and a fishing contest, which continue to this day. He also served on the Ratepayers Association of Opito Bay for 20 years. As part of this role, he negotiated contracts with the local council for several amenities, including public toilets and more efficient rubbish collection.

He is current Chair of the Kuaotunu Domain board area and has voluntarily looked after the foreshore and amenities. He has spent 38 years volunteering with the Kuaotunu Volunteer Fire Service, including 34 years as Chief Fire Officer, and was the Search and Rescue Coordinator in Opito Bay.

Mr Wight has organised numerous fundraising activities within his community and in the 1990s he helped to raise funds for life-saving equipment to be provided at local beaches.

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