Project Jonah floats home with top prize at Trustpower Community Awards

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Tm Cuff and Jane Reed of Project Jonah, the Supreme winners at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Barbara McKay, left, Carolyn McLellan and Judy Nalder of Golden Bay Rural Women at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Gaye Jameson, left and Lynley Worsley of the Mapua Community Library at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Emma Edwards, left and Alex Hunter of the Nelson Youth Council at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Kay Sneddon, left, Leila Goddard and John Paul Pouchin of the Sukita Project at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Caleb Binns Youth Spirit finalist at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

George Inglis, left and Alan Kissell of Menzshed Waimea at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

David Mitchell, left and Simon Clearwater of Mapua School, Tane's Ark at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

John Fisher of Keep Motueka Beautiful at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Michael Pickering Webb Youth Spirit finalist at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Siti Jongking Youth Spirit finalist at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Kathryn Brownlie, left and Gillian Bishop of Battle for the Banded Rail at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Marrit Walstra-Russell, left and Susan Arrowsmith of Age Concern at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Janine Bowater of Boost Room Makeovers at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Debbie Win, left and Cathie Hughes of the Dovedale Country Affair Committee at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

James Perham, left and Wayne Harrison of Coastguard Nelson at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Karl Merriman, left and Paul Jennings of the Nelson Mountain Bike Club at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Chelsea Routhan and Ross Newman of Big Brothers Big Sisters at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

Alan Gibbs, left, Peter Slinn of Target Shooting Nelson at the Trustpower Nelson Tasman Community Awards.

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The mammoth effort to refloat hundreds of whales at a mass stranding at Farewell Spit has been rewarded with Project Jonah taking out the top award at the Trustpower Community Awards.

The group were celebrated at the prizegiving at Seifried Estate Winery on Monday night, which celebrated the often unsung volunteers in Nelson Tasman. It was a chance for volunteers to mark their achievements in the community - from youth organisations, women's groups, those who care for the elderly, refugees, and the vulnerable, through to those helping to preserve and protect the environment.

The supreme award went to Project Jonah for its response to the February mass whale stranding at Farewell Spit - the largest in 100 years. Project Jonah walked away with $1500 in prize money.

The group has 337 Marine Mammal Medics in Nelson Tasman. They are ordinary people who have given their time to be trained to respond to strandings and teach other people how to keep stranded whales alive.

"Volunteers paused their everyday activities and responded, attending the four-day incident, volunteering thousands of hours to give time and energy in providing leadership, help on the ground and support," said Trustpower Community Relations spokesperson Emily Beaton said.

"Without volunteers, Project Jonah is just two people sat in an office. Volunteers are the ambassadors in the community, sharing and educating people on how to help marine mammals, volunteering assistance at training courses, community events and strandings."

Project Jonah spokesperson Tim Cuff, who accepted the award alongside fellow volunteer Jane Reed, said they were just two of the many people that made up the team.

"A stranding is an extraordinary place where community comes together", Cuff said.

Both he and Reed said the win had come as a complete surprise, but they were really proud of all that the volunteers had achieved.

"When so many thousands of people turn up, so eager to do something to help, the emotion of the whole four days was just incredible," Reed said.

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She said the award really belonged to "the whole of Nelson".

The Trustpower Community Awards are in their 14th year and celebrate 26 communities across the country. As supreme winner for Nelson Tasman, Project Jonah will represent the region at the national awards held in the Queenstown Lakes District next year.

A number of other community members and groups were celebrated on Monday night, including Nayland College's Fynn Sawyer who was presented with the Youth Spirit award, Mapua School for its Tane's Ark projects to restore wetland forest, and Menzshed Waimea for its programmes to bring men together to work on practical tasks and help others with their handyman skills. 

The Sukita Project, which works with migrants and refugees to foster their arts and crafts talents, was awarded the Art and Culture prize, while Coastguard Nelson was awarded Sport and Leisure Winner for its work to save lives out on the water. Volunteer Nelson Young Leaders was awarded Education and Child Youth Development Winner for its work to help young people get their Level 3 Youth Workers certificate.

The Nelson Award was given to the Nelson Youth Council for its efforts to give young people a voice on issues affecting youth, while Golden Bay Rural Women took home the Tasman Award, for their three branches' work and their fundraising projects which have seen between $12,000 and $14,000 funnelled into the community. 

The awards were presented by representatives from Trustpower, along with Tasman District Council deputy mayor Tim King and Nelson City Councillor Luke Acland.

Youth Spirit

Finalists: Caleb Binns; Michael Pickering Webb; Siti Jongking

Runner up: Taylah Shuker

Winner: Fynn Sawyer

Heritage and Environment

Commendation: Battle for the Banded Rail

Runner up: Keep Motueka Beautiful

Winner: Mapua School, Tane's Ark

Health and Wellbeing

Commendation: Boost Room Makeovers

Runner up: Age Concern

Winner: Menzshed Waimea

Arts and Culture

Commendation: Dovedale Country Affair Committee

Joint Runner up: Mapua Community Library; Chandrakirti Meditation Centre

Winner: Sukita Project

Sports and Leisure

Commendation: Nelson Mountain Bike Club

Runner up: Target Shooting Nelson

Winner: Coastguard Nelson

Education and Child Youth Development

Commendation: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Nelson; The Society of St Vincent de Paul Vinnies Youth

Runner up: Victory Boxing

Winner: Volunteer Nelson Young Leaders

Nelson winner

Nelson Youth Council

Tasman winner

Golden Bay Rural Women

Supreme Winner

Project Jonah

 - Stuff

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