Project Jonah floats home with top prize at Trustpower Community Awards
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.
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.
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 Youth Council
Golden Bay Rural Women