Commitment earns place on honour's list

16:00, Jan 08 2013
Tony Norman
TONY NORMAN: One of two Far North people to receive a New Year’s honour.

Two Far North people celebrated the new year as members of 2013's New Year's honours list.

Tony Norman welcomed the year in as a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his service to the community and Inspector Wendy Robbilliard became a member of the order for her work for New Zealand Police and the community.

"It's an odd feeling in a way," Mr Norman says of the news.

"It makes me feel a bit humble but it's kind of nice to have some recognition."

Mr Norman's service to the community - particularly the arts community - was not born of a desire for recognition.

He says he had the time and he had the skills, and he simply put his hand up when there was a need for something to be done.


Mr Norman grew up in New Zealand but left the country aged 22 and spent 30 years overseas gaining experience and working at times in difficult situations.

While his time in Asia sometimes required hiring bodyguards, it was, he says, financially quite rewarding.

He was able to retire at 51 and he and his wife, who comes from Sweden, chose New Zealand.

They moved to Mangonui and subsequently have a home in Kerikeri as well, and he has become involved in the arts scenes - especially the performing arts - in both communities.

"I have no artistic talents of my own and I just find it extraordinary," he says of his passion for the arts. "How satisfying it must be to express yourself in that beautiful way."

He says his interest in the arts has "evolved" as he's aged but says that while he was working intensely he would immerse himself in classical music.

He was attending a charity art exhibition and dinner which his sister hosted in Waikato and because he knew only her, she seated him next to the musicians who were to perform that evening.

His meeting pianist Rosemary Barnes that night was fortuitous and led to the creation of his classical music concert in his garden overlooking Mangonui Harbour.

It's an event that has become quite a success because it's filled a gap in the town's cultural scene.

"The front row is only two metres from the performer and it's only 10 or 12 rows deep, so it's sort of personal really," he says.

"Of course they [the performers] see the joy on the faces of the audience and so the artists generally have told me that it's really refreshing for them too - to see up close and personal, the reaction from the audience."

Mr Norman has been a Northland District Health Board member since 2007 and is now chairman.

He has been a trustee of the Kerikeri International Piano Competition for eight years, and was chairman from 2008 to 2010.

In 2010 he sponsored the Bay of Islands Youth Ballet in a large-scale production of Coppelia.

While chairman of the Oruaiti School Board of Trustees from 2004 to 2007, he facilitated the school's Problem Solving Team to compete in the New Zealand National Problem Solving finals, which went on to compete and win their category at the International Problem Solving Finals in the United States in June 2007.

As an accountant he has assisted many community groups with audit requirements on a pro bono basis, including the Taipa Sailing Club and the Mangonui Maritime Community Trust.

Ms Robilliard is the area commander for police services in the Far North, a position she was appointed to last year.

She was the manager of Victim Services at Police National Headquarters from 2008 until 2012.

During this time she was instrumental in the development of new procedures and systems for police victim responses after mass casualty events, assisted by Inspector Mark Harrison.

Following the Pike River coal mine disaster in 2010, she managed a network of liaison officers to support families.

She improved daily briefings by introducing relevant experts to present and answer questions from anxious families, as well as developing a text message tree and a restricted access website to provide instant updates on the progress of rescue and recovery efforts.

The systems of liaison officers and daily briefings were applied to the police response to the Christchurch earthquake in February 2011.

Ms Robilliard led briefings for more than 800 families and ensured their welfare needs were met.

She also introduced a system to notify families as victims were identified and to ensure that media reports did not pre-empt police communication with families.

She applied similar victim response systems after the Wairarapa ballooning accident.

Ms Robilliard previously held the roles of district family violence co-ordinator in the Bay of Plenty and the national alcohol harm reduction manager at Police National Headquarters.

She was appointed as area commander of the Far North District in June 2012.

Northern News