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Duynhoven: Highway Heroes Award for 2006

Wednesday 29 November 2006
Speech Notes Hon Harry Duynhoven,

Highway Heroes Award for 2006

Good afternoon, I am delighted to welcome you all here today.

As Minister for Transport Safety, it is always a pleasure to attend events recognising the transport industry’s commitment to safety.

This award is an opportunity for us to recognise truck and bus drivers who, during the course of their jobs and daily lives, go beyond the call of duty to help fellow motorists in need.

It gives the public an opportunity to see the positive aspects of the transport industry.

I congratulate Beaurepaires who with the New Zealand Police, Land Transport New Zealand and New Zealand Trucking Magazine, continue to recognise exceptional behaviour on our nation’s roads through their promotion of the highway heroes programme. This award is tribute to the willingness of industry to make a positive difference in road safety.

Today we are here not to honour the industry, but individuals. We want to celebrate more than safety - we will acknowledge individual acts of heroism and bravery; ordinary New Zealander’s going to extraordinary lengths to help others.

I would like to recognise all of the nominees for this year’s Highway Hero award, a testament to the number of New Zealanders willing to aid others.

For me, being a highway hero isn’t about movie dramatics and recognition: It is about performing a brave act in spite of the danger to save a fellow traveller.

Colin Roberts from Warkworth is the seventh recipient of this award since its inception and his deeds embody the highway hero values.

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One Sunday evening, late last summer, Colin was working night shift, driving metal to a roading project north of Auckland.

As he crossed the Pūhoi River on State Highway One, North of Auckland, he saw what he thought was a person on a raft in the river.

Colin sensed something was wrong so he stopped his truck and backed up to where he thought he had seen the raft.

He went across the road to get a better view. He noticed wheel tracks going to the edge of the bank near the river but there was no sign of a vehicle or the raft he thought he had seen from the truck.

When he called out, he got a weak reply but when he called again, nothing.

He ran down a bank and from the river’s edge, saw a body in the water. Realising the person could not lift their arms he jumped into the river and pulled the man out.

The victim was in shock and suffering from hypothermia but Colin got him to speak and established no one else had been in the vehicle.

Colin raced back to his truck to call for help. He called “star triple five” and the operator alerted emergency services and provided Colin with instructions.

Colin stayed with the victim, wrapping him in what dry gear he had from the truck, bear hugging him to keep him warm, shaking him and talking to him to help him retain consciousness. It was the most basic act of humanity and compassion and, without doubt, it saved a life.

The man was suffering badly from hypothermia and shock when emergency services arrived but went on to make a fully recovery.

Police first on the scene said without Colin’s help, the man would most likely have drowned in the river.

Colin, you are a hero and it’s comforting to know that when disaster strikes on the roads, people like you and the other nominees are there to help.

While that is reassuring, I hope none of us ever have to call on your services and there are a few simple steps we can take to help us ensure that we don’t:

- Drive to the conditions;
- Wear your seatbelt;
- Ensure you are fit for duty;
- Make sure your vehicle is road worthy; and
- Keep your attention on the job at hand.

Colin, I now present you with this trophy in recognition of your selfless conduct and extraordinary courage. Congratulations.


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