Rescuer: award is thanks to team

ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 31/12/2012
Jim Stuart-Black
Fairfax NZ

JIM STUART-BLACK: Usar team leader is devoted to rescue work.

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Jim Stuart-Black says he will be accepting an award on behalf of his entire team when he becomes a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Wellingtonian Mr Stuart-Black was the leader and co-ordinator of the national and international Urban Search and Rescue (Usar) teams during the Christchurch earthquakes, as well as playing a role in response efforts in a host of international disasters.

He was also called upon to give extensive evidence at the inquiry into the collapse of the Canterbury Television building.

He said he was humbled by the nomination, and had never expected to be honoured for something that was simply part of his job.

"It's a really weird thing. During the earthquake, by default you get media attention, and I didn't like that," he said.

"You don't do this for media attention. I believe very passionately in doing work around helping others.

"You leave the country, you do the stuff that you're asked to do and then you come back and no-one apart from your close friends and your employer know what you've been doing."

He believes the award will also reaffirm his stance as a converted Kiwi. He moved to New Zealand from London for "more opportunities" in 2003 and said he was now "a very proud New Zealander".

Before the earthquakes, Mr Stuart-Black had been the Fire Service special operations national manager, and was involved in rescue operations after the Pike River mine disaster.

He also led the Usar response team to Japan after the 2011 tsunami.

But it was the Christchurch earthquakes that were his defining moment.

"The difference is that Christchurch was not my home city, but New Zealand is my home.

"Lots of the other disasters I've been to are overseas, and it resonates a little differently when it's at home."

He believes that, in receiving the honour, the credit will lie with each of the teams that he has worked with over the course of his career.

"At no point do you think, ‘Gosh, we did well, now it's time for the honours.'

"I've only done this stuff because I've worked with some truly phenomenal people.

"As far as I'm concerned, it's something I'm collecting on behalf of the whole service." Fairfax NZ

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