Otago’s Local Heroes

Recipients of the Local Hero Awards were honoured at a ceremony held in Dunedin on Monday. 

Scott Weatherall (Dunedin)

Scott Weatherall

Scott’s contribution to the Dunedin region has reached into all corners of his local community. He is a paramedic for St John and is currently working as a road based frontline paramedic. Scott holds the position of Waitaki Peer Support coordinator, facilitating and leading a team of trained peer supporters to follow up with ambulance personnel following challenging or emotional jobs. In 2013, he was awarded a St John National Citation Award for his contribution to St John and the people of Christchurch following the 2011 earthquake. Scott co-responds with the Brighton Volunteer Fire Brigade, is a rescue swimmer of the multidisciplinary Dunedin Water Rescue Squad, runs the annual Taieri Lions Berwick Outdoor Experience, is in his fourth term as a member of the Saddle Hill Community Board and is currently serving as chairman, and has been involved in the upgrade of the Brighton Domain. Scott has been involved in Surf Life Saving for the past 30 years, he has coached sport athletes, been a representative on the Government Drowning Prevention Strategy working party, is an honorary
Fish and Game ranger and a Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust ambassador.

 

David Brown (Dunedin)

David Brown

David is chairman of the board of trustees for the Dunedin Night Shelter and he works tirelessly for those in need from the Otago community. This has included involvements such as participating in the annual Sleep-out-In-The-Octagon and the
annual street appeal. He fixes the plumbing, puts up fences, paints when necessary and even doesthe dishes when they have a community meal. He organizes for community groups and businesses to donate food, clothing and money so that the shelter is a safe, comfortable place for everyone who needs it. He speaks to groups about the shelter and gives up his time to keep the shelter in the forefront of the Dunedin community. His mantra that there are too many people out there who have a lot less than he has makes him kind and generous with his time, and a local hero to many.

 

Unicrew /Sleep Out team (Dunedin)

UniCrew Projects are student-led initiatives that are developed in partnership with a community organisation. The projects are led by students who are passionate about addressing social and environmental issues. One of the major projects UniCrew have backed in recent years is The Dunedin Sleep Out. The event is a fundraiser for the Dunedin Night Shelter, a service providing emergency housing to those in need. To show solidarity with those experiencing homelessness, students and other members of the public spend a night sleeping rough in Octagon in the middle of a Dunedin Winter. The sub-zero temperatures bring the reality of homelessness in Dunedin to the fore. Teams of students sign up for the Sleep Out and ask their friends and family to sponsor them. This year more than 100 students turned up to sleep rough and raised in the region of $12,000 for the local night shelter. The crew behind the Sleep Out go above and beyond to create an event that addresses the issue of homelessness but also encourages students to take part and raise both awareness and funds. The hours that go into promoting the fundraiser and pulling together the event are extraordinary and without the slick team behind it, the Dunedin Night Shelter would be missing out on some much needed funds.


Peter Lewis (Dunedin)
Globally, over 300 million tonnes of plastic waste is currently being generated by the world annually but less than 8% is being recycled. Peter is on a mission to save the planet and put this plastic wasten to work. He has invented a machine that will produce a brick that is made entirely from old plastic. The process known as ByFusion took about ten years of planning to develop. It is a 100% modular technology platform that can convert all types of plastic from drink bottles to meat packaging into a building material called RePlast. The machine is portable and the process is almost 100% carbon neutral, the end product is customisable, there is no pre-washing of plastics required and they take all plastics no matter the grade. The ByFusion machine is configured to produce RePlast blocks with the size and dimensions of common concrete blocks and can be used in a wide variety of infrastructure, development, and construction projects.


Michael Paardekooper (Dunedin)
Michael has been chairman of the Central Otago Sports Turf trust for more than 19 years. In this time, he has been instrumental in the process of getting a new international standard water turf and a warm up turf for the Central Otago region. Over the past three years he has spent thousands of volunteer hours planning, coordinating and fundraising to help the community to build this multi-million-dollar facility. This facility has had a huge impact of the hockey players of Central Otago, allowing them to play on a water turf of international standard. This will increase the players skill and ability to play representative hockey in the future. The water turf has seen a huge increase of new players to the sport. The new facilities will also allow for more tournaments and international games to be held in the city, in turn bringing people to the region and money into the local economy. Without Michael’s dedication the project would not of gone ahead and his contribution to the sport of hockey has been incredible.

 

Heather McGregor (Palmerston)

Heather McGregor

Heather is dedicated and willing to assist in any role given to her over the 35 years she has been living in the district. She is a trained supervisor, life member and has held several committee positions with the Palmerston Playcentre, she was a Plunket committee member for five years, secretary of East Otago Lions and Palmerston Lions, has hosted 28 exchange students and has been secretary of Gateway to Gold group for 10 years. She has been secretary and treasurer of Palmerston & Waihemo Agricultural and Pastoral Society for 16 years which involved organising the 125th and 130th show, on the committee for the Palmerston District Schools 140th reunion and was a committee member of the New Zealand Ploughing Championships in 2015. She is a current member of WW100 commemoration committee for Palmerston, secretary of the Palmerston Bowling Club, member of the East Otago Health Trust fundraising committee, Palmerston coordinator for Meals on Wheels and a member of the Waihemo Community Board. Heather has faced her own personal challenges, including chronic back pain, but this has not stopped her giving 100% to everything she does and continuing to give back to her local community.


Ashleigh Smith (Ranfurly)
Ashleigh has been involved in the Sticks ‘n Stones anti cyber bullying group for the past three years and is a joint leader of the Central Otago group that set the programme up. She has arranged community events to ensure parents and community members are well informed about cyber safety. She has been spokesperson in the media for the Sticks ‘n Stones group and was instrumental in helping the group gain funding from Jetstar. As a first year nursing student she is still involved and is helping set up Sticks ‘n Stones in other schools, ensuring a wider range of students are empowered to be safe online and know how to
respond in the face of cyber bullying. Ashleigh was selected as a representative at the Youth Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting held at Parliament in Wellington last year and earlier this year presented at the World Anti- Cyber Bullying conference in Dublin.


Charlotte Aarden (Alexandra)
Born in the Netherlands, Charlotte is a word class midwife working in Alexandra. From a young age it was clear to Charlotte that she was destined for a career in the medical field. She started her training as a nurse at the age of 18 in the Netherlands and after working across various areas Charlotte specialised in paediatrics and discovered a passion for working with families. With a Bachelor of Midwifery under her belt, Charlotte and her husband moved to New Zealand in 2008. Charlotte worked at the local maternity facility as a midwife from 2008 to 2010 at which point she formed Central Otago Midwives. Central Otago Midwives offer inclusive maternity care to pregnant mothers and their families. With the support of Cromwell Medical Centre, Central Otago Midwives brings together four exceptional health care professionals under the one umbrella. As a result, pregnant women and their families in Central Otago receive a level of care and expertise that is unprecedented. Charlotte has also addressed gaps in services in their rural location and has fought tirelessly to improve the level of care and support available in Central Otago.


Gordon Divers (Alexandra)

Gordon Divers

Gordon’s service to his Central Otago community has been nothing short of amazing. He was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1977 and in the role he has witnessed more than 4700 documents. He has acted as chairman of the Otago section of the Canterbury/South Island branch of the New Zealand Institute of Safety Management. He was made an affiliate in 1981, an associate in 1982 and a member of the Institute in 1988. He is the coordinator of the Central Otago Masonic Mobility Scooter Scheme, has been heavily involved in St John Ambulance exceeding more than 25,100 hours of voluntary service. Gordon has
31 years involvement in the Otago, Dunedin and Alexandra Civil Defence units and was made a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Civil Defence in 1985. He has served in the Air Training Corps, Royal New Zealand Air Force and Territorial Air Force. He has been involved in the Air Force Association, Returned Services Association, Friendly Society Lodges, Masonic Lodge, Grey Power Central Otago and the Central Otago branch of Arthritis New Zealand. Gordon’s contributions do not stop here but it would be impossible to list them all. Now in his 85th year his dedication to the Alexandra community remains outstanding.


Keryn Tubbs (Alexandra)
Keryn is one of the senior members of the Sticks ‘n Stones project to reduce cyber bulling in the region. She has put in hundreds of hours across Central Otago with the programmes and activities. She led the 'Hit Pause, then Post' team working alongside Facebook to redesign one of their online safety guides and then planned the national launch of these guides.
Keryn and the Sticks ‘n Stones programme have been featured on TV One News, Tots to Teens and she presented at the No 2 Bullying conference in Australia and recently to Dublin for a bullying conference. Keryn is the 2016 Youth MP for the Waitaki electorate and in this role she is working with other youth MPs as well as local young people to share their ideas and concerns. She is an incredible leader, passionate, caring and supportive of others, always willing to do the prep work behind the scenes, as well as confidently presenting that work to any audience. Keryn's leadership has had a profound impact on the Sticks 'n Stones group in helping to reduce the incidence of cyber-bullying in Otago and the rest of New Zealand.


Carly Laughton (Oamaru)
Carly is an amazing individual who has a passion for helping and working with youth. She runs the local Youth Centre which provides a safe, enjoyable and friendly place for young people to gather, mingle and grow. The youth have so much respect and love for her as she goes out of her  way to do everything and anything she can for them. She often counsels young couples and helps them by supplying furniture and household goods that they need to get started in their new flats.
She provides advice to young mothers to be, she involves youth and gives them opportunities to work. She also refers them to appropriate agencies when necessary and supports them along the way. She is an amazing woman who is an amazing role model for the youth of Oamaru, especially the young ladies.


Evan (Lox) Kellas (Portobello)

Lox Kellas

Lox has been a police officer on the Otago Peninsula for more than 30 years and as president of the Dunedin RSA and sitting on the Otago Peninsula Community Board he is well immersed in the local
community. Joining the army in his late teens, Lox served 20 months serving in Vietnam. From 1971 Lox was part of the Territorial Army, from 1976 he was part of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment and he retired in 1998 with the rank of major. He then went on to join the Royal New Zealand Naval Reserves on HMNZS Toroa until 2003. Lox joined the New Zealand Police Force in 1975 and in June 1989 he received his 14 years long service and good conduct medal as part of the Armed Offenders Squad. In 2007 Lox was awarded the Queens Service Medal in recognition of his services to the New Zealand Police. In January 2010 Lox was awarded a 35-year clasp for long service and good conduct. Lox joined the New Zealand RSA in 1970, on his return from Vietnam not realising then that his contribution to his comrades would only grow over the coming decades. In 2000, he became the Anzac Day dawn service convener and he has worked diligently over the past 16 years to build the service attendance to more than 10,000 at this year’s 2016 Anzac Day service. Lox doesn’t do any of this work for the recognition, he genuinely does it to help his community and make it a better place for the current and next generations.


Hayden Paddon (Wanaka)

Hayden is a world champion rally driver from Geraldine who was introduced into motorsport at an early age by his father Chris, who was also a rally driver. Hayden was PWRC world champion in 2011 and won the New Zealand Rally Championship in 2008, 2009 and 2013. In 2015, Hayden took his first ever lead of a WRC event in the Rally d'Italia. In 2016, on the 4th round of the YPF Rally Argentina, Hayden took his and New Zealand's first WRC win. Hayden is a superb ambassador for New Zealand spending a high degree of time on the international stage. He is universally respected and seen as a professional who is focused and highly likeable. Hayden is also working very hard to bring WRC back to New Zealand. The injection of capital into the economy is massive from this event which usually tours both islands; not to mention the boost to tourism. The Paddon Rally Foundation was setup at the beginning of 2016 with the aim of helping the growth of rallying in New Zealand. Hayden’s vision is to help attract new competitors to the sport while also helping develop new talent to take their careers international.


Kevin Moore (Mosgiel)
Kevin is a local farmer challenging people to push their limits. As a member of the Taieri Lions Club, Kevin put his own idea in a suggestion box and with the support of his fellow Lions he plucked up the courage to put his plan into action. 25 years later, the Berwick Outdoor Experience is utilised by many individuals, groups and teams who want to learn just what they are capable of. Kevin has rallied a large group of volunteers including fellow Lions Club members and ex-participants of the course to keep the camp functioning at low costs. Kevin’s small idea all those years ago has grown into a life-changing initiative that is accessible to the people of Otago.

 

Nikki Cockburn (Mosgiel)

Nikki Cockburn

To date Nikki has raised more than $89,000 to help her local community through fund raising. Nikki has become very well-known because of the quiz nights she creates to raise money for organizations and individuals at the local RSA. Every Tuesday night she is there working hard for another good cause. When she hears of a good cause she contacts them with the offer to help and she pours her heart and soul into each quiz night. Apart from raising funds, the quiz nights are also a great way to bring people together and connect the community. As a teenager Nikki lost someone close to her through suicide and kept a personal journal about her feelings and thoughts. Many years later Nikki decided to print her journal into a book called “Through the other side”. Nikki has shared it with her family, friends and the community in hopes of helping others affected by suicide. Nikki is a great example of one person who can make a difference for the hundreds of people she
has helped through fundraising and her book.

 

Peter Watts (Arrowtown)
Bus driver Peter or ‘Wattsie’ as he is known is a bus driver quite like no other in the Otago region. He is a die-hard advocate for everything in the Queenstown area, Otago as a region and he is as proud of a Kiwi as you can get. He goes above and beyond his duty for his customers, sharing local knowledge and offering unique insights into the area. He is regularly going out of his way to help his direct neighbours, from domestic duties and home repairs, as well as the other people within his local community. He is forever redirecting tourists to interact and trade with the business that are owned by, run by and staffed by Otago locals. Wattsie keeps himself up to date with everything that goes on in his town, region, Island and nation. He is willing to share his knowledge of the tourism industry, the developmental changes in the region, trade, sport, geography, biology and politics with anyone that has a question to ask.


Anna Hoek-Sims (St Clair)
The list of Anna’s involvements in her local community are far reaching and include just some of the following. Her volunteer roles include gardenening at the Rice is Life Farm in Laos in January, participating in the Are You OK? OUSA student group, a refugee support worker for Dunedin Red cross, a support worker for Dunedin Rape Crisis, Otago University UniCrew, co-leader of CanTeen’s Listen Up Advocacy Group, co-president of the Ship for World Youth NZ Alumni Association, beginner French
teacher at Alliance Française de Dunedin and a research assistant in the Pacific Islands Department at the University of Otago She is an exam supervisor for Disability Information Services at Otago University, completed a literature review on student health services, attended the launch of OWDsocks (Opportunities Without Discrimination) at the Multicultural Council’s AGM in Auckland and is a member of the Japanese Culture and Language Club Anna was selected by the Ministry of Youth Development to represent the New Zealand Government at the Global Young Leaders Development Programme or the Ship for World Youth hosted by the Japanese Government in Tokyo next year. Anna immerses herself in student life, involving herself where ever she can to make a positive difference in the lives of others.


Holly Robinson (Hokitika)

Holly Robinson

Taking after her father and brother, Holly’s first connection with sport was as four year old rugby player. Since then Holly has gone on to establish an outstanding career in athletics culminating in her winning silver at the 2016 Rio Paralympics in javelin.
At the age of ten Holly was selected in a talent identification programme and attended her first overseas competition when she was 12. Holly moved to Dunedin in 2011 after she was offered a scholarship to train under para-athletics coach Raylene Bates. The same year she moved to Dunedin, she attended her first IPC Athletics World Championships and the following year was selected to compete at the London 2012 Paralympic Games. Outside of sport, Holly completed a degree at the Otago Institute of Sport and Adventure gaining a Bachelor of Applied Science in physical activity, health and wellness in 2015.

- Photos: Peter McIntosh,  Bruce Munro, Getty Images 

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