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Special Mayoral Award ‘Eke Tangaroa’ Presented For The First Time At This Year’s Civic Awards – 22 November 2023

Outstanding things are achieved every day in Horowhenua, thanks to the invaluable work of many dedicated members of our community.

The annual Civic and Youth Excellence Awards took place at Te Takeretanga o Kura-hau-pō on Tuesday night, an opportunity to recognise community members who have gone out of their way to help enrich the lives of others.

Presented by Mayor Bernie Wanden, five Civic Honours were awarded, alongside four Certificates of Recognition. In addition, twelve extraordinary young people received Youth Excellence Scholarships.

Three Special Mayoral Awards ‘Eke Tangaroa’ were presented for the first time this year, created to recognise exemplary commitment to a specific project in 2023.

Horowhenua Mayor Bernie Wanden said the awards were one of the most important and anticipated civic events in the Council calendar.

“For more than 25 years we have been acknowledging and celebrating the people that voluntarily help others, bring people together and give back to the community and beyond in so many ways.”

“Civic Awards recognises the important contribution these individuals and groups have made in our community. We are grateful to our recipients for their tireless service to help our people overcome challenges, care for the environment and bring joy and happiness to uplift our community.” Mayor Bernie Wanden adds.

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Youth Excellence Scholarships are an acknowledgement of commitment, dedication and hard work, rewarding some of our most outstanding young sportsmen and women, top scholars, amazing performers and those who give their time to our community by way of voluntary service and participation. Scholarships are awarded to assist with costs such as tertiary study, sporting equipment and travel.

Civic Honours Awards were presented to:

Sharon Freebairn – Sharon is an active contributor to Waitārere Beach and its residents. She has stamped her mark on several community organisations and is a valued member of the community.

Sharon was a member of the Waitārere Beach Progressive Association for eight years and from the onset became actively involved with many community events. She held the roles of Secretary and Chairperson and is described as engaging and a gifted communicator who possesses a desire to both involve others and assist those in need.

During her time with the Progressive, Sharon was involved in community fundraising for community crime prevention cameras, including the famous ‘Long Lunches’ which include entertainment and an opportunity for the community to gather.

An area where Sharon excelled was engaging with Council matters – she was proficient and timely in submitting applications to Council for grants and was always well informed by attending Council meetings, in particular on matters that affected Waitārere Beach.

Sharon would take the lead on compiling submissions to Council consultations including Long Term and Annual Plans where she would use her strategic thinking and writing ability to strengthen the voice of the Progressive and beach community.

Sharon was responsible for initiating the Progressive and Council “Welcome to summer” initiative held at the Waitārere Beach Domain with the purpose of encouraging use of the community facility and welcoming new residents to the beach village.

Sharon also played a pivotal role in fund raising for the book “Waitārere - Our Past and Our People” which was a challenging project but her tenacity and determination for taking the lead made this a successful community project.

Sharon has continued to support and be proactive within the community by being heavily involved with the Beach Wardens where she is the co-ordinator and an active member, the Community Garden where she is the co-ordinator, mentor and participant, plus she supports beach clean-up days and the Community Book Exchange.

Joanna Mason – Jo has resided in the Horowhenua for over 45 years and during this time she has been actively involved with many organisations and is known as someone who is well respected, diplomatic, and honest, who has a fair approach to any issue.

Jo served as a Horowhenua District Councillor for three terms from 2016–2022, the final term as Deputy Mayor. During this time, Jo was appointed to many external and internal committees including Horowhenua Neighbourhood Support, Horowhenua Health Workforce Trust and the Disability Leadership Forum. In addition, Jo was the chairperson of the Access & Inclusion Committee from 2019–2022.

Jo is a current board member of the Horowhenua Super Grans, now known as Skills4Living, a position she was appointed to in 2015. Jo listens to others and offers practical solutions always respecting others points of view. She quietly and confidently works to reach a solution and is a valued member of the board. Jo is also currently a board member of the Horowhenua New Zealand Trust.

Many organisations reap the benefits of Jo’s business experience and community knowledge which enables her to offer advice and expertise in so many areas. Jo has empathy and a work ethic that means she always goes the extra mile to achieve a positive outcome.

The extent of Jo’s service to our community does not stop there. She has been a Fairfield School board member and chair, was involved in many sports teams when her three boys were at school, and has been very involved in the Horowhenua Rowing Club over the past 12 years undertaking both treasurer and secretary roles at various times. Many hours of hard work and leadership saw Jo awarded ‘Rowing NZ Volunteer of the Year’ in 2014 – a testament to her commitment and hard work.

Jan-Maree Hayes – Jan-Maree is a respected member of the Foxton community and has volunteered her time to many organisations, over a long period of time.

Most notably, Jan-Maree has stamped her mark on The Foxton Promotions Group who instigated the Foxton Easter Fair some 30 years ago. Jan-Maree has been a dedicated member of the team for over 25 of the 30 years of Foxton Promotion’s existence.

She has undertaken a wide variety of roles and a significant number of tasks, simultaneously on numerous occasions, along with extra responsibilities to ensure each year is more successful than the previous.

In addition, in recent years Jan-Maree’s input has been at leadership level.

The Foxton Promotions Group has two aims – the first is to promote Foxton as a tourist and visitor destination with the very first fair organised to lure into town a large group of caravan club members who were staying in Foxton for the Easter Weekend – 30 years on, the fair has grown to having over 200 stalls, music and family entertainment.

The second aim of Foxton Promotions Group is to support local schools and community groups by distributing the profits back into the community.

Jan-Maree and Foxton Promotions meets a minimum of once a month in the "off season" with a significant increase in the workload for the six months leading up to Easter. Although the group has always been small in number, they have been rich in enthusiasm, none more so than Jan-Maree Hayes.

Although Jan-Maree has spent many hours involved with other organisations such as Foxton Lions and the Athletics Club when that was in existence, none of these are equal to the literally thousands of hours Jan-Maree has spent year upon year ensuring the iconic Foxton Easter Fair continues to be one of the highlights of Foxton’s calendar year.

Victoria Kaye-Simmons – Victoria is the quintessential volunteer having served her community in a range of roles and responsibilities for over 20 years.

One of the biggest impacts Victoria has had is as a Horowhenua District Councillor where she served four terms, from 2010–2022 and to say she went above and beyond the position description is an understatement.

Victoria has been a valued member of the Levin Budget Service Board since 2013 and is the current Chair. She has had huge involvement with Contact Incorporated, now known as Te Whare Mahana Community Hub – she was appointed to the board in 2013 as a Councillor Representative and continues in this role today. She is described as a valuable board member with a deep understanding of the issues facing our community and is highly respected by those who work with her.

Through Te Whare Mahana, Victoria has been the driving force behind the Horowhenua Kai Club, a community initiative that has made fresh fruits and vegetables accessible to families at an affordable cost.

Victoria was appointed to the Horowhenua Family Violence Intervention Services Board in 2014 and is a current board member, and has given her service to Montessori, Betty Montford Kindergarten, TS Tutira Sea Cadet Unit, the Organic River Festival and Lift off Levin Balloon Festival.

As a Councillor, Victoria was appointed to Keep Horowhenua Beautiful in 2013 and appointed as chair in 2014, again a position she holds today where she plays a major role in organising clean-up weeks and other community initiatives. Through KHB and her Councillor role, in 2015 Victoria was appointed as the Zone Three representative to Keep NZ Beautiful, again a position she holds today along with being the current Keep NZ Beautiful Chairperson.

Victoria's contribution to the Muaūpoko Waitangi Day Event commenced in 2011 and she continues to remain involved which has been hugely appreciated by Muaūpoko and our community.

Victoria exemplifies the spirit of community service. Her contributions have left an indelible mark on our district, fostering connections, enhancing community wellbeing, and making a genuine difference in the lives of our residents.

Matai'a Aleni Feagaiga – Aleni has been a member of Fale Pasifika Horowhenua for past nine years and during this time has made a huge impact on the committee and within the Pacific People’s community. FPH’s aim is to improve health, educational and social outcomes for Pacific People, and to develop a thriving Pacific community. This has been achieved with significant results under the leadership and guidance of Aleni who held the role of chairperson from 2016–2023.

Aleni has had significant involvement in Pasifika Youth Jandal Jam and Pasifika Celebration Day festival which celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2021.

In 2020, during the initial Covid Lockdown, FPH was granted $10k from MSD to support Pacific families with fruit and vege boxes and meat packs to support struggling households and alleviate financial strain. Aleni took it upon himself to personally pick up, and deliver every one of the support parcels, over a six week period, until the funds were fully utilised. This is a testament to Aleni wanting to do his bit to support our community in a time of need.

In 2020, through the Provincial Growth Fund, an opportunity arose for Council to collaborate with Fale Pasifika Horowhenua to apply to the Pasifika Churches Renovation fund. Aleni offered his assistance and time for this project as his church representative which resulted in a warm and freshly decorated place of worship, with upgraded kitchen, hall and toilet facilities.

Aleni is well known in rugby circles – he is a Life Member of College Old Boys Rugby Football Club and is the current Vice President where his dedication has strengthened the club and left a lasting impression on those fortunate enough to work alongside him. Although Aleni is an employee of Horowhenua Kāpiti Rugby Football Union, he continually goes above and beyond to support the development of young rugby players and create pathways, and has a particular interest in developing Pacific rugby and players, such as the Horowhenua Samoan Team.

Aleni is described as incredibly humble and he often deflects praise. This humility serves to further exemplify his character and the authenticity of his contributions to our community.

Eke Tangaroa (Special Mayoral Awards) were presented to:

Christine Belsham – The war in Ukraine is a stark reminder of the fragility of peace and the human cost of conflict. It was in January 2022 that we heard the news of the war and the immediate devastation on families, towns and infrastructure. Communities were displaced and lives shattered.

It was from this devastation that Christine Belsham instigated the Horowhenua based organisation Kiwi Care. The objective of Kiwi Care was to send locally made children’s clothing to war torn Ukraine.

For almost 20 months, Christine worked in a voluntary capacity to raise funds, source local women with creative skills, deliver materials, sort, store and finally package up large volumes of goods. There were times where Christine’s vehicle was full to the roof with the expertly made clothing.

Christine enlisted a strong force of volunteers from diverse backgrounds, who ranged in age from being in their 20s to 90s. Many volunteers commented how the project had given them a wonderful sense of purpose. Using their hand skills, they quilted, knitted and sewed hundreds of practical children’s clothing, blankets and toys. Christine is an excellent example of a person who can rally a community to help others.

The project culminated with almost a full shipping container departing the Horowhenua for Auckland, and then on to the Ukraine. Christine has been described as having unfailing resolve, hardworking and hugely committed throughout the entire project.

Kathy Mitchell and Catherine Lewis – In February 2023, the wrath of Cyclone Gabrielle was felt from the Pacific Islands to New Zealand. We were warned that Gabrielle was coming, however we never imagined the destruction it would cause and the lives it would change forever.

Over six days, Gabrielle impacted many parts of the North Island – it was the costliest tropical cyclone on record in the Southern Hemisphere, with total damages estimated to be at least NZ$13.5 billion.

Property damage was extensive, lives were lost, and in addition infrastructure and roads were wiped out, there were huge stock loses, widespread damage to the horticulture and viticulture sectors and the landscape of some farming areas would be altered beyond recognition. We all saw the devastation on the news and thought about what we could do to assist those affected.

In comes Kathy and Catherine who empathised with what farmers and growers were going through and they were motivated to rally our district. Kathy and Catherine gathered a committee to commence work on The Black Out Project. Behind the scenes, graphics, photography and media support was also assembled. They set a lofty target to raise $100,000 and had no doubt that our community would get behind the fundraising venture.

There were several facets to the fundraising – getting businesses on board to donate prizes to the Black Out Auction, selling tickets to the auction night, The Black Out Day where schools and workplaces would wear black to symbolise standing with those affected and a street appeal.

The business donations far exceeded what Kathy and Catherine dreamed, the generosity was quite remarkable. Prizes included a leadership retreat, helicopter rides, a weekend away package, hot laps in a V8, a scenic flight and a professional brand shoot to name a few. The response from schools and businesses to the call to dress in black and donate was also overwhelming. Our community had rallied around the project and were united in reaching the target.

The amount of work that Kathy and Catherine put into the project was nothing short of phenomenal – from organising project team meetings, to getting sponsors on board, planning out the Auction function and promoting the project – they were in there heels and all.

The result was better than expected with over $108,000 raised which was distributed to the Tararua Mayoral Relief Fund and Hawkes Bay Mayoral Relief Fund which covers Central Hawkes Bay through to Gisborne – the donation from the heart of the Horowhenua was gratefully appreciated by the recipient councils.

Certificates of Recognition were presented to:

Felicity Clarke – Felicity has lived all her life in Horowhenua and is a well-known resident of Shannon and now Waitārere Beach. Felicity is described as humble, tireless and always putting others needs first, often ahead of her own.

In the earlier days, Felicity was a volunteer with the Shannon Fire Brigade, Shannon Young Wives, Plunket Young Mothers Group, Shannon Saturday morning rugby and Variety Players. She was also a volunteer at Shannon School and an active volunteer for the Plunket Society fundraising through catering, concerts and theatre events.

Felicity is well known for her generosity and kindness and is aware of anyone who is unwell or in need of assistance. Because of this she has become very well known throughout the community.

Felicity is very skilled at weaving together many community groups; her impact and influence on our community is far reaching as are her famous chocolate eclairs and baking which she delivered to groups such as the Shannon Fire Brigade and Shannon School. With that baking went care, kindness and practical advice.

Felicity is described as a positive and exuberant team member of the Levin Anglican Parish and St Aidan’s Waitārere Beach Parish. She is the first person to arrive at church to ensure that everything is ready for the Sunday Service and organises rosters efficiently and with enthusiasm.

Felicity chairs the Pastoral Care Team for the Levin Parish which ensures that Parish and community members are well cared for. In addition, Felicity enjoys visiting rest home residents to provide a friendly visitor and support. She also cooks and bakes for church, and creates flower arrangements for funerals and the church when required.

Felicity is a current member and treasurer of the Waitārere Beach Progressive and Ratepayers Association where she has been an active member for over 10 years, and has provided support for many community events.

Bill Harvey – Bill has over many years, turned his personal love of three sporting activities into genuine social good for his community of Te Awahou Foxton: these being karate, boxing and rugby.

Bill received his Black Belt in karate in 1978 and started his own Dojo in Te Awahou Foxton. It continues to this very day, some 45 years later. Although his son Matthew is now the main driver, Bill continues to be part of the club both at the personal level and as a trainer. Not bad at the age of 68! Time has erased any possibility of counting the scores of people, particularly youth, in Bill’s community who have grown under his tutelage in physical skills along with mental and psychological discipline.

It is sometimes said that when taught correctly, martial arts can be the most peaceful approach to conflict resolution, bullying and violence and this appears to have underpinned some of Bill’s other community contributions. Some of the young people who are Karate students at present describe Bill as still fearsome as an opponent, but have a great respect for his ability to make them extend themselves and achieve goals that are beyond what they believed possible.

1982 saw Bill obtaining his boxing licence and over eight years he gave hours of his time training many men and women. Subsequently, in 2015 Bill breathed life back into boxing in Te Awahou Foxton, supported by his son Matthew. Bill’s dedication in this code produced many skilled and confident men and women – a number of whom fought in tournaments with great success.

The third arrow in his quiver has been rugby – in 1996 Bill began refereeing for the Horowhenua/Kāpiti area which he continued for over a decade. He also volunteered to referee games on numerous occasions for Manawatū College.

It is about more than physical skills. It is also about psychological resolve and resilience. And it is about building confident and positive members of society. When we combine his contributions through karate, boxing or rugby it is impossible to count the hours Bill has volunteered to his community. The common thread throughout, for over 45 years, has been this: Bill’s infectious love of physical activity has combined with his love of people along with a strong conviction that these codes, done well, develop the whole person.

Derek Prior – Derek is a Te Awahou Foxton resident who has given his heart and soul to a range of organisations, over many years.

The Foxton Little Theatre is a small group of active members who work hard on keeping Community Theatre alive in Foxton. Since Derek joined the committee, he has undertaken nearly every role in the theatre. He is described as a man with many skills who is often the person the group turn to when tasks crop up at short notice.

Derek is totally reliable, if he says he will do something, it is carried out in a timely fashion and always to a high standard; and in addition, he has made improvements to the theatre to enhance the experience of patrons.

Derek has carried out tasks such as doing dishes for hours on end when there has been dinner and show evenings; he has managed front of house doing the myriad of tasks designed to make the theatre’s hospitality legendary; he has helped construct and deconstruct the sets, the gardening and general maintenance – Derek has even been reserve minute secretary and held the position of Vice President. There has also been the occasion where the director has been short a male actor, who do they turn to – Derek.

Derek is an active member of the Manawatū Estuary Trust where he joined the committee and took on the role of minute secretary. He is responsible for maintaining the birdwatching scopes and having them prepared for visiting groups. Derek is a member of a group of committed people who spend their Wednesday mornings doing pest tree removal and weeding of the estuary area which is a RAMSAR site of international significance.

Derek also volunteers for the Levin Riding for the Disabled organisation. Soon after he joined, he became as a volunteer and joined the committee. He was acting president during the time they had to move premises 2022–2023. He is presently a volunteer with the riders every Thursday and also Vice President. Derek looks after policy, Police checks and also fills in wherever there is a gap.

Derek has volunteered for Riding for the Disabled for the past five years and is particularly active in supporting the committee. Derek has been described as being a huge support as Vice President – he has worked on updating the policy and national qualifications required for RDA, and manages the Police check process.

Tony Robinson – In Foxton, Tony is a rock-solid community man who has given incalculable hours of his time, using his love of sport for the betterment of others. Specifically, his passions have been karate and rugby.

For over thirty years Tony has been a karate enthusiast and has used his knowledge to train many others, growing them through his influence in the physical, mental and social skills that martial arts provides.

Over many years, week after week, Tony has given an extraordinary amount of his time to mentor and train participants of all ages, ranging from five years old through to adults.

Every week, training is held over two nights and often in the weekends gradings are held. Tony has continued over these 30 years to be totally committed with his time to ensure club members and individuals reach their potential and achieve the highest skill level and grading that they are able to. Tony has also assisted the Levin Karate Club over a number of years lending his skills and experience to the assist the club and its members to achieve their very best as well.

Tony has also over many years given freely of his time to his other sporting passion being Rugby. Tony began coaching the Manawatū College under 15s in the early 2000s before going on to coach the College 1st XV for a number of years. In this time the 1st XV grew into a powerful force earning the respect of the many other teams they played against in the schools competition, and continually performed to a high standard throughout Tony’s coaching tenure.

Tony latterly went on to coach at Senior Club level achieving excellent results with both the Foxton Senior A and Shannon Senior A teams, with the Shannon side making the Horowhenua-Kāpiti Senior Competition final in 2016 under his coaching and leadership.

We also must acknowledge Tony’s late wife Raewyn, who alongside Tony formed a powerful coaching team, as at the same time Raewyn coached the Manawatū College Senior Netball Team, who also always performed to a very high standard through Raewyn’s passion and knowledge for the game.

Tony also served on the Coley Street School Board for 9 years from 1999–2007, the last three years as Chairperson.

There is no doubt that the Foxton and wider Horowhenua community have been huge beneficiaries of Tony’s passion, skill, and personal commitment to both Karate and Rugby.

Horowhenua Youth Excellence Scholarships were awarded to:

Paloma Janse (academia)

Isabel Mclean (academia)

Nathan Eyles (academia)

Lavalea Fonoti (arts and culture)

Charli O’Brien (arts and culture)

Te Waipounamu Tamati (arts and culture)

Maiah Cudby (community service)

Georgia Cruse (community service)

Ta'lia Tuitama (community service)

Flynn Warren (sport)

Cassie Yates (sport)

Whatu Kiriona (sport)

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