Award not given lightly

KIRSTY MCMURRAY
Last updated 08:00 28/05/2013
tdn wells stand
ROBERT CHARLES
YOUTH INVESTMENT: Taranaki Futures Chairman Graham Wells

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A humble Taranaki businessman has been given a high honour by a New Plymouth community group.

Wells Instrument and Electrical head Graham Wells was pronounced Citizen of the Year by the New Plymouth Pakeke Lions Club at the Fitzroy Golf Club yesterday.

Mr Wells said the award was not just in recognition of him, but also of his team of more than 500 employees, who had an ethos of treating their clients the way they would want to be treated and working behind the scenes.

Pakeke president Vic Morgan said the club had decided to give Mr Wells the rare award for his work in the liquor licensing laws, sponsorship of the Wells New Plymouth Half Ironman, and for sorting out lighting at Yarrow Stadium.

"We see him as the citizen of the year for New Plymouth, probably for Taranaki," he said.

Mr Wells' achievements span far more than a year - he's been active in the community for decades.

Most notably, in 1998 Wells Electrical, along with Fitzroy Engineering, saved the day by swooping in and installing the lighting at Yarrow Stadium, formerly Rugby Park, in time for a major rugby match after other firms had told the council it couldn't be done.

In 2011 Mr Wells took legal action to prevent a cut-price bottle store opening near his business in the Sunley St industrial area.

The High Court decided the Liquor Licensing Authority had been wrong to grant the bottle store a licence and effectively directed the authority to consider surrounding land use when considering a licence application.

The decision has since been used by communities throughout the country to control the sale of booze in their neighbourhoods.

Most recently Mr Wells has been in the public eye after his company's tender to the New Plymouth District Council for last year's Festival of Lights lighting contract was rejected in favour of a Wellington firm.

Mr Wells said the tendering process was flawed and reflected deeper problems within the council which he would continue to question.

Mr Morgan said it was an award which was not often given out and the club had to go through a process which included making an application through Lions headquarters in America last November.

New Zealand Lions Club executive officer David Dawick said he had only seen one other Citizen of the Year award presented during the last four years.

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