Meri Leask is still recovering from the ''shock'' of
being hailed as New Zealand's champion of water safety and
having a haka performed in her honour.
The voluntary operator of Bluff Fishermen's Shore Station for
34 years was awarded the Outstanding Contribution Trophy at
the New Zealand Water Safety awards dinner in Queenstown on
''It's a very humbling and moving experience,'' Mrs Leask
said from her home in Bluff yesterday, where the glass
sculpture trophy has pride of place.
''I look after so many people visiting our country or locals,
and for this to have happened to me is a shock.
''Then the amazing part of it all was a group of young
fellows got up and paid their respects to me by doing a haka.
''That was just absolutely amazing - you can't believe it
until you're in that situation how people must feel. It's so
''We do what we do because we enjoy it.''
Mrs Leask said she and her husband worked in the commercial
fishing industry for many years and had a good understanding
of the need for maritime information when the original
station closed down.
The couple picked up the service before the licence lapsed
and while the service demands her constant attention, modern
technology means she can take a break and still look after
the skippers at sea.
The Bluff Fishermen's Shore Station signal covers Foveaux
Strait to Stewart Island, as well as parts of Fiordland,
coastal Otago, the Chatham Islands, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa and
Australia. Southland fishing boats to private super yachts
cruising the world rely on her broadcasts.
''I give out weather forecasting, if people ask something and
I can help them I will, port entry rules, I do customs entry
and departure here in Bluff, or if people are going to enter
somewhere else, I'll notify Customs in that area,'' she said.
One thing not on her radar is retirement.
Mrs Leask said she would continue to operate the station
''for many years to come''.
Water Safety New Zealand chief executive Matt Claridge, of
Wellington, said there had not been a more deserving
recipient in the history of the awards than Mrs Leask.
''Here's a person who is on call 24/7, who fields up to 160
calls from boat users on a busy day and has assisted in more
than 110 incidents, and she's been doing it for more than
three decades on a voluntary basis,'' Mr Claridge said.
''Meri has made a significant contribution to the safety of
the skippers and passengers on board Southland's vessels.''
In other awards at the conclusion of the International Water
Safety and Aquatic Education Conference, Surfing New Zealand
won the awareness award for its ''Have A Go Surfing Days'',
while Coastguard Boating Education's safe boating programme
won the prevention award.
The education award was won by Swim Safe Southland.