Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 23 June 2016

Finding our local heroes

It's that time of the year when we celebrate those people who do extraordinary, unpaid work that makes our District a better place. Nominations for the 2016 Citizen Awards are now open, so I encourage people to think about nominating someone for one of these awards which are now in their 16th year. Past recipients of the awards have included volunteer fire officers with outstanding service records, sports club coaches of legend and people who have given their time, labour and love to all sorts of community projects.

The bar is high, but only because the quality of volunteers in the District is. Most of us should therefore be able to think of someone who is a contender for an award. I must confess that we have wondered whether there is a need to keep holding the Citizen Awards. The Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year Awards are now the gold standard for individual achievement, so it can be difficult to build interest in the awards. However, each year we are reminded of why the awards are worthwhile.

First, they are one of the few Council-hosted events where all kinds of people from across the District come together to share stories. These gatherings are important to the wellbeing of our district. They help to break down barriers, dispel myths and give us a deeper appreciation of the strength we have in our small, diverse population.

The awards also help to reinforce charitable behaviour in a world where people have become more self-absorbed. We can all imagine how bleak our lives would be if people only worked for money or only acted out of self-interest. Fortunately, that is not the District we live in.

I am constantly amazed by the voluntary work that is undertaken across the District every day by thousands of people who are willing to do something for their community or for someone else. It may be the dad who coaches his son's soccer team in his spare time, the pensioner who answers the phones at the Citizen Advice Bureau or the committee member who helps to organise the local A & P Show. The list is almost endless.

The miracle is not that people do all this work unpaid, but that many don't see it as a sacrifice or imposition. Voluntary work gets retired people out of their homes and makes them feel valued and useful, while many parents see getting involved in sports teams and school committees as an opportunity to support their children and make new friends.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate these contributions or thank these amazing people for helping to make our District a great place. Please think about someone you know who may deserve a Citizen Award and fill in a nomination form before nominations close on 13 July. Go to the FNDC website for details and please help us to find our local heroes.


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