Southland's stalwarts

Last updated 12:41 06/12/2012
Southland Times photo
Nigel Finnerty is one of 11 people nominated for the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Southland Awards.

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Twelve Southlanders were awarded medals at the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Southland Awards ceremony this month for their hours of service to a range of organisations and projects throughout the region.

Here they are.

Nearly 180 local heroes are being honoured at regional ceremonies aross New Zealand.

A national Local Hero of the Year will then be announced at the New Zealand of the Year awards gala ceremony in February.

Reporter Louise Berwick profiles the 11 Southland heroes.


Bill Anderson: Bill could be mistaken for being an employee of Rugby Southland. During the rugby season he works more than 40 hours a week, but he is not paid for his hard work; he voluntarily gives up his time to the sport. As club rugby administrator he manages more than 5000 players, coaches and referee registrations every year and takes a hands-on approach to his work. His nominator said he put in the "hard yards" for the love of the sport.

Veronica Christie: Hours of dedication to the Mossburn Badminton Club led to Veronica being nominated for the Local Hero award. Veronica has been a member of the club for the past 30 years and has passed on her knowledge, skills and experience of the game to all the members at the club. She even organises her personal holidays around training and events at the club, and donates a huge numbers of hours to the organisation. Veronica was unable to attend the awards ceremony on Friday.

Nigel Finnerty: Nigel braced minus 12 degrees Celsius, climbed to an altitude of more than 5000 feet and ran a marathon, all in the name of charity. Nigel raised $4000 for the Southland Multiple Sclerosis Society by running the highest altitude marathon in the world at Mt Everest. After walking for 15 days to the starting point, Nigel finished 13th in the race, excluding the local Nepalese.

Murray Wishart: "One of those people in life, who touches your heart," that was how Murray's nominator described him.The retired farmer has voluntarily been doing the gardening at Forest Hill Cemetery for the past 10 years and was a foundation member of the Southland Hospice. In the past he has also volunteered for the Tussock Creek Rugby Club, where he coached and co-ordinated working bees.

Peter Willsman: As chairman of the Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Group, Peter has been an instrumental part of the group and a founding member. His dedication to the organisation has meant the group have been able to help control the spread of wilding pines in the Wakatipu area. He organises events for the group and continues to donate hundreds of hours to the cause.

Bill Foster: Bill has been helping at Age Concern for a quarter of a century. Age Concern has more than 140 volunteers but was adamant that Bill was deserving of the nomination. He helps with everything from housie to client support and is heavily involved in the Winton Senior Citizens group in Winton.

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Monica Burns: A Local Hero Award is another accolade to add to the list for Monica Burns, who has already received an Invercargill Civic Award for contribution to sport in Southland, Southland Watties coach of the year, Netball New Zealand service award and a Queen's Service Medal for service to netball. Monica began coaching in the 1960s and is still coaching to this day. She now coaches the the future Silver Ferns at the year 7 and 8 level.

Betty Bright: Mrs Bright has been knitting for the past 78 years. She was awarded for the countless hours she spends knitting for orphans and babies both here and in Africa. The 90-year-old learned to knit when she left school at the age of 12 and now knits every day for a number of organisations who supply the garments to the children and babies in need.

Carol Dawson: Every Tuesday Carol Dawon takes the day off work to run the Riding for Disabled programme in Gore. Ms Dawson goes out of her way to ensure the happiness of all involved. Her nominator Raewyn Hillis said she was ''very proud'' to say she was her friend because of Carol's hardworking attitude and ongoing voluntary work within the community.

Caroline Loo: Caroline was nominated for her work to promote awareness of the strains of meningococcal disease. After her daughter died in her arms at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital Caroline set out to raise awareness about the disease and her efforts have been recognised nationwide. Caroline's efforts have ensured families throughout the country are aware of risks of the meningococcal strains and ways to prevent it.

Gerry Forde: As brand co-ordinator of Venture Southland, Gerry inspires people both young and old. Gerry has worked on leadership programmes which improve people's confidence and encourages them to be themselves, as well as helping manage a number of community events like the Santa parade. ''Through passion and hard work, Gerry Forde encourages pride in identity in leading to belief, passion, performance and community spirit.''

Colleen Hopwood: Colleen was nominated for nearly six decades of service to the nursing sector. Colleen retired this year after 58 years in the industry, including 12 years of night shifts. She began her nursing career as a 14-year-old when she left school to help with an illness at home, she then began workng as a nurse aid at Kew Hospital. As well as nursing she trained in midwifery and neonatal nursing. She is well respected in the nursing community for being an ''all-round great person.''

- Invercargill Eye


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