Seven exceptional locals working tirelessly in their communities throughout the Clutha District had their efforts acknowledged by the Mayor and Councillors at a special event held at Council this evening.
Finlay Abernethy, Peter McPherson, Stu Michelle, Ila Ryan, Chris Shaw, Dawn Smith and Helen Keen were presented with Clutha District Council Community Awards to acknowledge their community service.
They had been champions in their communities from supporting new migrants, community gardening gurus, dishing out baking and kindness, rolling up their sleeves to see community projects to fruition and doing their civic duties.
Mayor Bryan Cadogan said their work and genuine desire to serve their community in their various ways was truly worthy of recognition.
“The strength of any rural community is in their volunteers.
“It’s what drives projects, improves wellbeing and ultimately defines the vitality of our towns.
“Volunteering is the most crucial and rewarding involvement a person could have with their community and I am delighted to formally acknowledge the seven recipients of the 2019 Community Awards,” Mayor Cadogan said.
The Clutha District Council Community Awards were re-instated this year because the Trustpower Individual Award has since been discontinued and Council felt it was an important event for acknowledging those individuals in the community that go above and beyond.
The 2019 recipients (alphabetical order):
Finlay Abernethy - for services to the Owaka community.
Finlay Abernethy is a staunch community-minded person and a well-known Owaka resident. A member of Catlins Promotions since 2006, of which he has been chairperson and vice chairperson. Achievements under his chairmanship include developing the Catlins River Wisp Loop Walking Track and the Matai Rail Walking Track. These tracks represent a new stage in the development of visitor attraction where the community group (Catlins Promotions) has worked in active partnership with the Department of Conservation. During Finlay’s time he has successfully organized environmental enhancement and visitor information (e.g. Catlins Lakeside Project); roadside clean-ups; advocacy for pest control; community activities and events (such as Rugby World Cup Owaka and Showtime in The Catlins) and spending countless hours on the on-going maintenance work involved with projects. Part of Catlins Promotions’ role is submitting and advocating for community planning and development and Finlay has a strong voice in these matters. He is a member of the Catlins Historical Society, joining in 2009 and becoming Vice President in 2010. His initial involvement with the society began when he was asked to do the backdrop street scene painting for the new museum building and has done a lot of behind-the-scenes work maintenance, gardening, odd jobs and painting since. He was a volunteer at the weekend information desk for 10 years. Not only generous of his time but also his produce and regularly gives vegetables to needy families and flowers for special occasions. A lifelong commitment to the Owaka Baptist Church fellowship he keeps the lawns mown and the building tidy although services have now ceased in the building. He was also involved on the committee for the Pounawea Convention Centre and has served as president of the Catlins Area School Home and School Association.
Peter McPherson - for service to West Otago and the Clutha District.
Peter McPherson’s civic duty to the district began in 1989 when he was selected to the West Otago Community Board. He was a Clutha District Councillor from 1995 till 2010 and during this time he was Chairman of the District Assets Committee for 12 years and representative of Local Government Zone Six from 2004 till 2010. He served on the Wastewater and Waste Management working parties, the Forestry Committee, the Clutha Water Studies Group and was a member of the Tuapeka County Bursary and Telford Rural Polytechnic Bursary panels. Locally he was a member of the Black Gully Domain Board for over 50 years, Pest Destruction Board and a Crookston Cemetery trustee. He has been a member of the Hercules Lodge, Tapanui for sixty years. Recently he was awarded a 60 year jewel, for his service to the Lodge. Many other organisations in the West Otago area have benefitted from his expertise and hands on approach to projects. He is always willing to give up his time to help others.
Stuart (Stu) Michelle - for services to the Waihola and wider Bruce community.
Since coming to Waihola about fifteen years ago Stu has worked tirelessly in the community. At a very early stage he joined Waihola Looking Forward and participated fully in all working bees and activities. Stu took on the role of Chairman when the previous Chairman relinquished the position due to poor health. Upon taking on this thankless task Stu has personally overseen numerous community projects. Some of these projects include the construction of the new jetty to replace the old, worn one. He also oversaw the instigation of a Waihola Water Rescue Boat for the lake and environs. The latest project has been the refurbishment of the local community hall which was driven largely by Stu as is the re-fencing of the local children’s playground to secure it from the road and rail traffic. These are but a sample of some of the work undertaken by Waihola Looking Forward under Stu’s stewardship. Stu is also President of the local Rebus club.
Ila Ryan for services to the Balclutha community.
Ila Ryan is one remarkably caring and humble lady, helping so many people in many ways. Her baking around town is legendary as she regularly bakes for cancer society, sick families, patients and staff at Clutha Health First, Recreation Centre and Balclutha Primary School. She is a strong supporter of all their school fundraisers. She volunteers at Holmdene assisting with outings, visiting residents, making jams and pickles to be sold for funds towards resident outings, mends clothes, takes flowers, and of course provides baking. Her volunteer work with the Red Cross Society includes being a committee member, volunteering in the shop and washes clothes. She is a Meals on Wheels volunteer and organises cups of tea for blood donors. Her generosity with her knitting includes knitting singlets and sourcing wool for other knitters to knit garments for prem babies and Clutha Health First maternity. She transports RSA members to afternoon teas and she had had extensive involvement in supporting the Diabetes NZ South Otago Branch.
Chris Shaw - for services to the migrant community in the Clutha District.
Chris Shaw has been doing amazing work in supporting, integrating and befriending migrant people in Balclutha and Clydevale for several years. She is a founding member of the Clutha District Settlement Support Group and is always thinking of ways to ease the resettlement process for these migrants and making them feel truly welcome in the Clutha District. The recent terrorist attacks both in Christchurch and Sri Lanka spurred Chris into even more action, visiting, listening and comforting local migrants who have family and friends affected by these attacks. As part of her Settlement Support work she instigated the Information Booklet, and collected the initial pamphlets, brochures and free samples from local businesses, which all made up the bundle of handouts given to all new migrants into the area, to help them settle easier in a new place. Chris was the driving force behind the hugely successful Clutha Culture Feast held in May each year. This event, which quickly outgrew the Balclutha War Memorial Hall and is now held at the Cross Recreation Centre not only provides the whole community with the opportunity to taste food from other cultures and see traditional costume and dance from around the world but provides a venue for the whole community to meet and celebrate together.
Dawn Smith & Helen Keen - for services to the Owaka community.
Dawn Smith and Helen Keen are a team and the joint recipients for their dedication to continued beautification of Owaka. When planning commenced in August 2014 for the Owaka 150th celebrations these two ladies stepped up and took over the planting and maintenance of the many garden areas around the town including the playground and toilet area, entrances to the town and the historic railway bridge area at the Southern end of town. Since 2014 these ladies have put in countless hours of hard work spraying, weeding and planting for the beautification of the landscape areas around Owaka. Between them, with extra assistance when required, they have transformed the appearance of Owaka. Helen has also served on the Combined Sports Bodies Committee and Owaka Going Forward alongside her role as a District Nurse Manager. Dawn has spent many years as a member of the Owaka Memorial Hall Management Committee. Both ladies were also heavily involved and on the successful Owaka Goldfields Cavalcade Committee last year.