Local heroes honoured for services to community

The honoured heroes.

Everyday people doing exceptional things were the toast of the town as the Bay of Plenty honoured its very own “Local Heroes” at the annual Kiwibank Local Hero Awards.

As part of the 2019 New Zealander of the Year Awards, the 17 Kiwibank Local Heroes were presented with specially made medals to officially recognise their achievements at a ceremony held at Classic Flyers Museum on Wednesday night.

Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout attended the ceremony to present the medals and congratulate the recipients on their awards.

“Our regions 17 local heroes demonstrate the acts of charity, commitment and selflessness which is what holds a community together. Many of these individuals are inspiring members of our community who have all uniquely touched the lives of others.

“The awards continue to be the perfect opportunity for our community to acknowledge these people and their efforts in making the Bay of Plenty a better place to live,” he said.

The Kiwibank Local Heroes for the Bay of Plenty were:

  • Noel Kelly (Mt Maunganui)
  • Rupal Mehta (Tauranga)
  • Melvern Wainwright (Oropi)
  • Viv Jones (Mt Maunganui)
  • Lisa Sarsfield (Gate Pa) note: is to receive her medal at the Rotorua ceremony on the 15th November.
  • Gale Gordan (Te Puke)
  • Tracey Carlton (Tauranga)
  • Gaelene Falconer (Tauranga)
  • Su Hodkinson (Mt Maunganui)
  • Ian Shearer (Whakatane)
  • Mary Wanhill (Tauranga)
  • Sharon Horne (Mt Maunganui)
  • Hailey Trappitt (Tauranga)
  • Kiwi-Bianca McLeod-Ohia (Tauranga)
  • Kirsti Kay (Tauranga)
  • Graham Dyer (Tauranga)
  • Lance Campbell (Katikati)

Now in its tenth year, the Kiwibank Local Hero Awards are New Zealand’s premier community awards, celebrating and honouring those who have made a positive contribution to their region, town, suburb or community.

This year, 322 medals will be presented nationwide with one New Zealand Local Hero of the Year winner announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala in February next year.

Kiwibank CEO, Steve Jurkovich, said the Local Hero awards always held a special place in the hearts of the bank’s staff

“These medal recipients are the unsung heroes whose selflessness, optimism and commitment has had a profound effect on the lives of so many in the community. Yet in the rush of day-to-day lives, we can sometimes forget to properly acknowledge just how special these people are.

“That’s why we have the Local Heroes awards – it’s the community’s way of honouring and saying thanks to these fine people.”

The 2019 New Zealander of the Year Awards are to be presented in six award categories, with the overall winner of each category to be announced at the New Zealander of the Year Awards Gala on the 13th February 2019.

The categories are:

  •   •  The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year

  •   •  The Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year

  •   •  The University of Auckland Young New Zealander of the Year

  •   •  The Mitre 10 New Zealand Community of the Year

  •   •  The Sanitarium New Zealand Innovator of the Year

  •   •  The Kiwibank New Zealand Local Hero of the Year

Bay of Plenty's local heroes

Noel Kelly (Mt Maunganui)

Noel Kelly is locally known as the 'Pillar of Hawea Street' for his community minded spirit and invaluable contributions to the community and Arataki Kindergarten.

As the groundskeeper of the kindergarten until he reached 90 years old, Noel has contributed significantly to its grounds since its opening over 40 years ago. He has continually maintained its garden, fixed broken toys, chairs, doors, boats and more, upkeeped its paint work and been a friendly and memorable face to all children who have attended Arataki Kindergarten.

Although retired, Noel on the odd weekend can still be found at the kindergarten weeding the gardens or tidying the lawns, as well as mentoring the current ground keepers to ensure his high standards are maintained.

Noel is also a life member of the Mount Maunganui RSA and served at Guadalcanal during WWII in the Air Force at 18 years old.

Rupal Mehta (Tauranga)

For more than 14 years, Rupal Mehta has supported survivors of domestic violence within ethnic communities, through her position as Vice Chair at the Shakti Tauranga Ethic Womens’ Support Group.

Since joining in 2004, Rupal has volunteered thousands of hours to victims of family violence, purely out of her passion and compassion towards the justice and welfare for women. Over the last two years she has been working tirelessly to support and engage migrant women on their farms in Te Puke who are often isolated, face language barriers and endure continuous abuse from their partners.

To be able to better support victims, Rupal completed a bachelor’s degree in Social Work while also running her family business full-time.

Melvern Wainwright (Oropi)

Melvern Wainwright has been involved in community groups his whole life and is currently a leader at Youth Search and Rescue Tauranga – a non-profit organisation which trains students to become active volunteers in emergency response organisations. It aims to inspire future leaders with a focus on practical skills, technology, innovation and community.

Melvern’s role includes instructing and transporting students and maintaining equipment. Before exercise camps, he always ensures the equipment is ready with batteries charged, equipment fuelled, and in the trailer ready loaded with maps and software needed for the exercise. Melvern assists at the camps instructing the students in rope work and other areas of his expertise and is held in high regard amongst the leaders and students.

Other community organisations Melvern is involved with include the Bay of Plenty Civil Defence and Emergency Management, the Mountain Safety Council’s Tauranga branch, Tauranga Land Search and Rescue and the Oropi fire brigade.

Viv Jones (Mt Maunganui)

Viv Jones is the founder of Macular Degeneration New Zealand - an organisation who aims to raise awareness and support to the 1.5 million New Zealanders who are at risk of blindness from this relatively unknown but common eye disease.

Since Viv started the organisation 9 years ago after herself being diagnosed with the disease. She has since raised more than $167,000 and awareness of macular degeneration in New Zealand has risen by 50%. Her voluntary work has included providing information to those diagnosed and their families, upskilling health professionals and representing the macular degeneration community in the public domain.

At over 70 years of age, Viv has volunteered countless amounts of hours into preventing others from suffering from the eye disease and ensuring they take the right actions to save their eye sight.

Lisa Sarsfield (Gate Pa)

Lisa Sarsfield is a selfless member of Gate Pa, who dedicates much of her time helping others in the community.

For over four years, she has been involved with St John as a Division Manager Youth Volunteer, sacrificing personal time to prepare, assess and manage the expanding programme. Her passion for helping others has led her to become an emergency medical technician and volunteers shifts with first responders once a month.

Ontop of these community services, Lisa makes care packs for the homeless and women's refuge which consist of homemade soaps, razors, shampoos and sanitary items. She also assists at the Otumoetai Youth Division and has committed over 500 hours to get the organisation back up and running, on top of countless hours encouraging the children in her community to be kind and caring citizens.

Gale Gordon (Te Puke)

As Manager of Beachaven Family services, a community organisation to support and strengthen families in the community of Papamoa East, Gale Gordon has spent a lifetime helping those in need.

She has been a foster mother to 52 homeless children, spent years providing home-based child care and support for pensioners and is currently serving in the local 'It's Not OK' campaign against family violence. Gale’s doors are always open to those in need and has been a generous mother figure to many children in her community over the last 30 years.

Tracey Carlton (Tauranga)

Tracey Carlton leads and runs the community response to homelessness in Tauranga ‘Street Kai’, which feeds the homeless three times a week and helps them into proper housing through support and encouragement.

Her work involves arranging for hot milo and meals to be available and provides basic necessities such as water, toiletries, shoes, blankets, socks and other clothing to help make a positive difference in their lives.

Admired and praised by the wider Tauranga community for her selfless efforts, Tracey has made an astonishing difference to the city’s homeless community and has formed loving relationships with many; some of whom affectionately call her ‘Aunty Tracey’.

Gaelene Falconer (Tauranga)

Gaelene Falconer has been the Bay of Plenty and Central Plateau facilitator at ‘Look Good Feel Better’ - an organisation supporting cancer patients – for over 18 years.

As a volunteer, Gaelene runs classes in Rotorua, Tauranga, Whakatane and Taupo and is also a facilitator for the men’s classes in her area. Aimed at those struggling with the visible side effects of cancer treatment, each class runs for two hours and provides attendees with the opportunity to relax and feel special through a 12-step skincare and makeup regime. The organisation, which began in America in 1987, now operates in 26 countries world wide.

In the wider community of Tauranga, Gaelene always takes any opportunity to help spread the word about the services provided by Look Good Feel Better.

Su Hodkinson (Mt Maunganui)

Su Hodkinson is a well-respected and loved Mt Maunganui local who has spent many years working as a social worker, supervisor and care protection coordinator at Child Youth and Family. Her extensive local knowledge and tireless work ethic has helped keep many children and their family safe in the community.

Su is also described by many as a ‘rubbish womble’. Taking rubbish bags with her nearly everywhere she goes in the community, Su is constantly picking up and disposing of rubbish in the streets of Mt Maunganui to keep them clean and green.

Ian Shearer (Whakatāne)

Ian Shearer is a man of many achievements.

Holding three agricultural science degrees, Ian was initially a research scientist for nine years who pioneered research into the effects of anabolic steroids on muscle mass. He has also been a Member of Parliament, including over three years as a Cabinet Minister, a Foundation Dean of Science and Engineering at the Auckland Institute of Technology, former Acting Director of the Waitangi Tribunal, a Whakatane District Councillor and operated his own technology consulting business.

Now retired, Ian researches and records the aspects of New Zealand’s history of people and places, having produced several books including ‘The Boy from the Bay’ and ‘A Century on Cameron – history of Tauranga Hospital’.

Mary Wanhill (Tauranga)

Mary Wanhill was forced to leave the ‘Crusty Demons’ - a group of daredevil freestyle motorcyclists from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe – after a sports related injury, leading her to a change in career.

Mary then founded ‘Youth Encounters’ - an organisation that aims to empower people to do more, learn more and encounter success through delivering them exciting and engaging dirt bike riding programmes. Working with youth aged between 11-24, the organisation supports those who are lacking purpose in life, struggling socially at school, and the marginalised. Since its beginning, Mary has helped dozens of youth realise their full potential and become empowered individuals of their communities.

Sharon Horne (Mt Maunganui)

Sharon Horne is an Anchor AIMS Games coach for netball and girls rugby league, as well as coaching the year 8 elite volleyball team at Mt Maunganui Intermediate School. She also tutors the Kapa Haka and Pacifica students.

Her passion for children provides needed encouragement and support towards her students, helping them to be better people. Her dedication has helped many students develop confidence and has a huge impact on everyone she encounters.

Hailey Trappitt (Tauranga)

Hailey Trappitt was one of three youth ambassadors travelling the country with Mike King on the 2018 I AM HOPE Tour, on a mission to raise the awareness of mental health. On the tour, Hailey shared her personal journey through depression and dark times to inspire and help others.

Hailey has been heavily involved with the government in trying to change the New Zealand’s mental health system and has helped prevent other youth from heading down a road of depression like she did.

Kiwi-Bianca McLeod-Ohia (Tauranga)

Kiwi-Bianca McLeoud-Ohia is a well respected member and leader of Tamapahore Marae for her achievements as a Netball player and coach.

As the coach of several netball teams at Arataki Primary School, Mount Maunganui Intermediate and mount Maunganui College, Kiwi-Bianca hopes to use her degree to become a physical education teacher. Her skills and knowledge of the sport has helped many members of the teams become better players and more passionate about netball.

She is the recipient of the prestigious Te Rangihouhiri Marae Elite Taiohi Award for her leadership efforts.

Kirsti Kay (Tauranga)

Kirsti Kay is an animal enthusiast who is a horse riding instructor, a local riding for the disabled coach and ambulance paramedic.

She has also been instrumental during some of New Zealand’s biggest disasters. Kirsti flew down to Christchurch after the city’s earthquakes to help find lost people under rubble. She also rescued an abandoned litter of puppies from under a house during the Edgecombe floods last year.

Kirsti’s positive and selfless attitude never fails to help the people and animals in her community.

Graham Dyer (Tauranga)

Graham Dyer is a dedicated sustainable orchardist who has used his skills to beautify the parks in Tauranga. He spends many hours planting, growing and propagating plants in many of Tauranga’s parks in efforts to preserve their diversity and leave a lasting legacy of trees for people to enjoy.

As one of the original Tauranga Tree Society planters at McLaren Falls park, Graham selflessly gifted a collection of kauri trees from around the Pacific to the development of Sydenham Botanic Park.

In 2011, Graham and his wife earned the supreme title in the 2011 Bay of Plenty Balance Farm Environment Awards for over 50 years of hard work and innovation on their kiwifruit orchard.

Lance Campbell (Katikati)

Lance Campbell has been teaching Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over 14 years, receiving his Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt in 2014. He has competed both Nationally and Internationally and has a wealth of experience and knowledge in self defence, grappling and Jiu Jitsu.

As Head Instructor at the Global Jiu Jitsu Academy in Katikati, Lance helps to improve people’s lives through the gentle art and has empowered many children along the way. He dedicates countless hours teaching Katikati youth, often doing so unpaid.

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