Marlborough's mayor celebrates quality people with civic honours

Airforce and naval uniforms helped set the scene when civic honours were presented at Marlborough District Council on ...

Airforce and naval uniforms helped set the scene when civic honours were presented at Marlborough District Council on Friday. From left, Flying Officer Jeff Cameron; citation recipients Melva Robb, Glenda Robb, Jim Thomas, Mayor John Leggett, Henny Vervaart, Ross Beech; and Lieutenant Commander Neil Connell.

Any community is defined by the quality of the everyday people who shape it.

Marlborough recognised some of the sterling qualities it enjoys in its people with the annual Civic Honours citations on Friday.

The awards were given by Lieutenant Commander Neil Connell, the Regional Naval Officer for Marlborough, supported by Flying Officer and RNZAF base adjutant Jeff Cameron, while Mayor John Leggett spoke briefly about each recipient at the ceremony held at the Marlborough District Council.

From left, Glenda Robb, Melva Robb, Jim Thomas, Henny Vervaart, and Ross Beech.

From left, Glenda Robb, Melva Robb, Jim Thomas, Henny Vervaart, and Ross Beech.

Marlborough's citations are drawn from seven categories  recreation, youth activities, social welfare, religious affairs, educational services, cultural affairs and community affairs, with some recipients cited for more than one.

Marlborough landscape exponent Ross Beech was recognised for community affairs, and Leggett described him as "a farmer-environmentalist, a man who can speak with credibility as a grape-grower, dairy farmer and high country pastoralist also known for his deep understanding of sustainable farming practice – the first Supreme Award winner of the Marlborough Environment Awards".

"Ross was nominated for this honour by Marlborough's rural community," Leggett said, "but he could equally have been the nomination of the Significant Natural Areas advisory group of which he has been a member since its inception 16 years ago, advising the council where these important places are and how they should be saved."

He said Beech was also being recognised for his lead setting up of the South Marlborough Landscape Restoration Trust "to wipe out the wilding pines plaguing our southern hillsides".

"His negotiating skills with landowners have also been put to good use by Bike Walk Marlborough where they've developed trails crossing private property," Leggett said.

"I should also mention the many hours of service Ross has given as a member of council's environment committee. This is his third term as the rural representative on this committee and his contribution is consistently thoughtful and authoritative."

Leggett said the next awards were special, a "double act".

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"I don't believe Marlborough has ever given civic recognition to a pair of siblings," he said.

He described community affairs and social welfare citation recipients Melva and Glenda Robb as "sisters who exemplify the NZ countrywoman – capable, competent, community spirited".

"They're charitable in the best sense of the word – generous and compassionate. And they know how to organise and mobilise," Leggett said.

"They have formidable networks in the Marlborough Sounds and the wider region and, as members of Rural Women New Zealand, they swung into action quickly after the Kaikoura earthquake last year." 

"Logistic didn't defeat them. Isolated and traumatised families from the Clarence to the Awatere were soon receiving supplies – everything from much-needed crockery to gift baskets."

He said Melva Robb had the official leadership responsibilities as Area 3 Leadership Councillor for Rural Women New Zealand, and both were exemplars of Rural Women.

"It is their national president who has nominated them jointly for this award," Leggett said.

He described community affairs, social welfare and recreation recipient Jim Thomas as "retired, with rest and relaxation taking second place to service in that retirement".

"Jim is now going into his fourth decade of service to Blenheim Lions Club where his organisational skills are highly valued." 

"He has a string of Lions awards for his commitment to the club's activities - and he must have a certain satisfaction in knowing he's distributed hundreds of trailer-loads of firewood across Marlborough.

"On top of that, he was a key figure in seeing our very popular Stadium 2000 built for Marlborough and he has given great service to the Rarangi Golf Club too," Leggett said.

"But one of Jim's most worthwhile contributions has to be the years of service he has given to Victim Support in Marlborough. Being a volunteer for Victim Support is a big commitment but Jim has not only been involved in the front-line work but as overall service coordinator, as chair and treasurer and as mentor to other volunteers."

"It's work requiring a high level of empathy and understanding and I know Jim has been a huge asset to this organisation."

Henny Vervaart was recognised for community affairs and social welfare.

"Henny is highly valued by all the community organisations benefiting from his time and skills," Leggett said.

"More than 30 years a member of Blenheim South Rotary, he has a long history of service to this district, a regular at many events from Daffodil Day to the Wine Festival and all the organising and fundraising in between."

"For the last 15 years Henny has been a willing set of hands for the Red Cross, helping with Meals on Wheels, with fundraising and most recently with the response to the Kaikoura earthquake."

"But the organisation which nominated him for this award is Alzheimers Marlborough where Henny is considered a treasure. Recruited for the committee after he began there as a volunteer driver, Henny has now become Alzheimers Mr Fix-it man. With his business background in quality kitchen joinery, I understand there's a very well designed, well-performing kitchen at [the Alzheimers Centre] 8 Wither Road."

"Maintenance man, master of the vehicle fleet, committee member, fundraiser and general pair of willing hands, Henny continues to make a great contribution to this increasingly busy service organisation."



 - The Marlborough Express


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