Otagos Local Hereos MR feature

Our Local Heroes - Four of our top people honoured

 Four locals have been honoured in the run up to the 2020 New Zealander of the Year Awards. Crux says a huge Congratulations to each of them.

Eventually only one Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year will be awarded next year, from a total of 386 people awarded medals in the procees so far.

Caption for main image - Otago Winners.

Back row:  Alex Gordon, Annabel Bulk, Ken Gillespie, Margaret O’Hanlon, Mike Tonks, Dr Ahmad Taha, Simon Hayes, Barry Becker

Front row:  Tahu Mackenzie, Abby Golden, Karla Sanders, Juanita Willems, James Peter Heath

Absent:  Corinda Taylor, Donald Waugh (deceased), Hannah Morgan, Terry Emmitt, Brigette Paterson

Here's the four people from our part of the country.

Annabel Bulk (Bannockburn)

Annabel 1 Bulk is an emerging viticulturist with a passion for organic farming. She works for Felton Road wines to help it maintain and further enhance the worldwide reputation of Otago wine.

Annabel is also a member of the Central Otago Biodynamic Association and uses her knowledge of biodynamics to assist in native forest restoration and conservation in Otago.

Annabel has gained wide recognition for her professional and charitable work and is considered a role model by many young New Zealanders looking to begin careers in sustainable viticulture.

Simon HayesSimon Hayes (Queestown)

Simon Hayes is a proud member of his community and is involved with several charities and community projects. Most prominently, Simon is the chairman of Abbyfield New Zealand, where he works to assist elderly throughout the country in charitable social housing.

Simon has continued to aid and fundraise for numerous local causes, including the Queenstown Lions Club, RSA and Queenstown Primary’s Board of Trustees. He has also previously spent two terms as a Queenstown Lakes District Councillor.

 

Margaret O’Hanlon (Queenstown)

Margaret OHanlon MRMargaret O’Hanlon is a dedicated volunteer in Queenstown with a passion for creative arts.

As a trustee for Creative Queenstown and the Queenstown Performing Arts Centre, Margaret makes a consistent and invaluable contribution to the local performing arts community.

Margaret brings with her a vast amount of experience, having worked as a singer, actor, director, vocal coach and vocal tutor. The leadership she displays for both Creative Queenstown and the Queenstown Performing Arts Centre has been to the benefit of many in the community.

Terry Emmitt MTerry Emmitt (Cromwell)

Terry Emmitt, along with his late friend Mike Paardekooper, built not one but two hockey turfs in Cromwell. The first was built 20 years ago. However, in 2016, the pair completed a new water turf with a pavilion which meets Olympic standards.

Neither Terry, nor Mike, play hockey themselves but their selfless gift to the community has hugely benefited many. The New Zealand Blacksticks have since hosted an international tournament on the grounds, and local youth teams have been steadily climbing the national ranks.

Mike passed away in January this year, and the new pavilion now fittingly bears his name.

 

Here's details of all the Otago winners:

Dr Ahmad Taha (Dunedin)

Dr Ahmad Taha is the Southern District Health Board’s only neurosurgeon and is on call 24/7. Ahmad has held this position for more than 10 years, saving the lives of hundreds through emergency and lifesaving surgeries.

 

Ahmad is also a clinical senior lecturer and neurosurgeon consultant at The University of Otago. Here he trains junior medical staff, students, nurses, interns and postgraduate students in surgical sciences.

 

When he’s not performing lifesaving surgeries or teaching the next wave of neurosurgeons, Ahmad contributes to brain tumour research groups in Dunedin as well as overseas.

 

Corinda Taylor (Dunedin)

Corinda Taylor started the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, after losing her son in 2014. The Trust works to prevent suicide and support those struggling with their mental health.

 

Through the Trust, Corinda organises Dunedin’s Annual World Suicide Prevention Day event. The event is attended by hundreds in the community who all come together to pay their respects and remember loved ones lost to suicide.

 

Corinda also runs numerous mental health talks and workshops for local schools and workplaces. She has provided a much-needed voice for suicide in Otago and throughout New Zealand and is currently working to help families receive better support following the death of a loved one.

 

Donald Waugh (Balclutha)

Donald Waugh is a dedicated volunteer in Balclutha, serving multiple community groups.

Don is a regular delivery driver for the local Red Cross’s Meals on Wheels programme which supports the elderly and those recovering from illness with hot cooked meals. He also supports members of the Blind Foundation by reading stories from the local newspaper over the phone each week.

Don is also a loyal member of the local Rotary club and the South Otago Theatrical Society.

*Donald sadly passed away in November. His granddaughter Kate Barron collected his medal on his behalf.

 

Juanital Willems (Kinmont)

Juanital Willems is the co-ordinator of Foster Hope Otago, where she works to improve the support and lives of children in foster care.

This year, Juanital’s eyesight significantly deteriorated from a childhood injury. Despite this, she continues to work full time and undertake all the administration, fundraising, and agency coordination necessary for Foster Hope Otago.

Juanital’s dedication and leadership for Foster Hope Otago has bettered the lives of hundreds of foster children, with many now in loving and supportive homes.

 

Tahu Mackenzie (Dunedin)

Tahu Mackenzie has been a volunteer for the Orokonui Ecosanctuary for 10 years, helping restore and maintain a pest-free environment in the Orokonui Valley.

Tahu’s unique and creative personality has educated thousands of young conservationist and environmentalists over the years. Most recently, Tahu supported the Orokonui Ecosanctuary to launch Dr Jane Goodall’s Education Program, Roots and Shoots. The program empowers young change-makers to implement sustainability projects in their communities.

Tahu’s leadership has helped grow and inspire the next generation of conservationists to enhance the Orokonui Valley land for years to come.

 

Hannah Morgan (Dunedin)

Hannah Morgan was a multi-time national swimming champion, until a serious injury put her out of competition. During her absence, Hannah became involved in mental health advocacy.

Hannah later decided to return to the pool and commit to swim the Foveaux Strait to raise money and awareness for mental health. She trained 50hrs a week while studying in her 3rd year of a law at Otago University before completing the 32km swim.

Hannah successfully completed the swim in February this year and raised $30,000 for the Mental Health Foundation and the Otago University Student Association’s mental health initiatives. Her leadership and dedication has inspired many other students to undertake charitable initiatives.

 

James Peter Heath (Dunedin)

James Heath is the 2019 president of the Otago University Students Association. As president, he launched initiatives that have greatly improved student wellbeing and safety.

Throughout the year, James successfully pushed for safe substance testing, organised a Fox Glacier clean up with 70 students, and increased local body election voting enrolments through his advocacy. Most notably however, James increased student access to mental health services which has improved the wellbeing of hundreds.

Following the Christchurch terror attacks, James turned his full attention to the Muslim community in Otago, hosting the Otago vigil and co-ordinating food packages for affected residents.

 

Michael Tonks (Dunedin)

Michael Tonks is the founder of the ‘Game On’ program which supports soon-to-be and new fathers. The program teaches fathers basic parenting solutions, such as the importance of infant and child nutrition.

Since the programme’s launch 10 years ago, Michael has helped many new dads, especially young ones, by teaching them vital parenting skills to care for their new-born children.

Michael is also the founder of the UpSchool After School facility which helps children with homework and provides free access to computers.

 

Karla Sanders (Alexandra)

Karla Sanders is the CEO and co-founder of Sticks’n’Stones, an award-winning bullying prevention charity.

Sticks’n’Stones began with approximately 30 teenagers in 5 high schools to help young people build their confidence and help others to feel accepted by their peers. It has since expanded into more than 13 schools, supporting hundreds of students in the Central Otago area.

Having secured new funding, Karla is extending Sticks’n’Stones nationwide through an online training program and is currently co-designing two social and emotional learning programmes for school students.

 

Abby Golden (Alexandra)

Abby Golden is an inspiration and exemplary role model to the Dunstan High School community. She is part of the Student Council, serves as chairperson for the Alexandra Sticks’n’Stones charity, and leads the Students Against Drink Driving initiative.

Abby also volunteers with St John Youth, Central Stories, and Ranui Rest Home. Her dedication and commitment to the local community and strong desire to make a difference has bettered the lives of many students and locals in Alexandra.

 

Barry Becker (Oturehua)

Barry Becker has a strong community spirit and always helps others where needed, like when the town water supply needed an upgrade in 2007. Today, Barry remains chair of the revamped Oturehua Water company and continues to read the meters himself.

Barry is also chair of the Oturehua Saleyards Company and Gilchrists Oturehua Store Ltd.

A passionate cricketer; Barry has held many local and regional leadership roles in cricket and its umpiring. Over the years, he has provided a great deal of support to Oturehua School and the Oturehua Winter Sports Club who have benefited immensely from his input.

 

Alex Gordon (Roxburgh)

Alex Gordon is a dedicated member of his community, volunteering much of his time to the Roxburgh Area Committee.

Despite being retired, Alex assists the committee with a wide range of initiatives such as a recent fundraising effort of $21,000 to fund additional rooms at Teviot Valley Rest Home Ltd.

Alex continues to play in the Roxburgh Brass Band, a group he’s been with for over 60 years. He is also a great supporter of the local Rotary Club, who have a great appreciation for his years of commitment and leadership.

 

Ken Gillespie (Oturehua)

Ken Gillespie is deeply involved with various community projects and groups, including as chairman of Hawkdun Idaburn Irrigation Company- a not-for-profit working to improve irrigation and water management. 

A retired farmer, for 20 years Ken has been operating tours through Hayes Engineering and is part of the Oturhua Winter Sports club, Otago Motorcycle Club and the Oturehua Hall Committee.

Ken is also heavily involved in the town’s heritage and tourism efforts, helping to put Oturehua on the map for the many tourists who visit the region. His commitment to the community has been widely acknowledged, with many viewing Ken as a role model.

 

Simon Hayes (Queestown)

Simon Hayes is a proud member of his community and is involved with several charities and community projects. Most prominently, Simon is the chairman of Abbyfield New Zealand, where he works to assist elderly throughout the country in charitable social housing.

Simon has continued to aid and fundraise for numerous local causes, including the Queenstown Lions Club, RSA and Queenstown Primary’s Board of Trustees. He has also previously spent two terms as a Queenstown Lakes District Councillor.

 

Terry Emmitt (Cromwell)

Terry Emmitt, along with his late friend Mike Paardekooper, built not one but two hockey turfs in Cromwell. The first was built 20 years ago. However, in 2016, the pair completed a new water turf with a pavilion which meets Olympic standards.

Neither Terry, nor Mike, play hockey themselves but their selfless gift to the community has hugely benefited many. The New Zealand Blacksticks have since hosted an international tournament on the grounds, and local youth teams have been steadily climbing the national ranks.

Mike passed away in January this year, and the new pavilion now fittingly bears his name.

 

Annabel Bulk (Bannockburn)

Annabel Bulk is an emerging viticulturist with a passion for organic farming. She works for Felton Road wines to help it maintain and further enhance the worldwide reputation of Otago wine.

Annabel is also a member of the Central Otago Biodynamic Association and uses her knowledge of biodynamics to assist in native forest restoration and conservation in Otago.

Annabel has gained wide recognition for her professional and charitable work and is considered a role model by many young New Zealanders looking to begin careers in sustainable viticulture.

 

Brigette Paterson (Teviot Valley)

Brigette Paterson is a passionate and much loved local in the Roxburgh community.

Brigette is responsible for a number of town initiatives including the renovation of the public toilets. For the project, Brigette raised $130,000 to complete uniquely designed toilets with an iconic façade which have successfully drawn the attention of tourists.

Brigette is also the founder of the annual Cherry Chaos event. The event builds relationships between new and old community members to break down cultural barriers among international workers and locals. Her efforts have fostered a greater sense of community and spirt in Roxburgh.

 

Margaret O’Hanlon (Queenstown)

Margaret O’Hanlon is a dedicated volunteer in Queenstown with a passion for creative arts.

As a trustee for Creative Queenstown and the Queenstown Performing Arts Centre, Margaret makes a consistent and invaluable contribution to the local performing arts community.

Margaret brings with her a vast amount of experience, having worked as a singer, actor, director, vocal coach and vocal tutor. The leadership she displays for both Creative Queenstown and the Queenstown Performing Arts Centre has been to the benefit of many in the community.

 

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