BAY OF PLENTY TIMES PERSON OF THE YEAR

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Who deserves to win?

We have compiled a short list of five people after receiving nominations and now need further help from readers to decide the winner. Simply vote for the person you think deserves the title of Person of the Year by emailing promotions@bayofplentytimes.co.nz. Votes will be used to help a judging panel, comprising Bay of Plenty Times staff, Tauranga MP Simon Bridges and Mayor Stuart Crosby, make a decision. Voting closes 5pm Monday, December 12 and the winner announced in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend on December 17.

 

Allison Stewart, Tauranga

When it comes to community events, you can be certain Allison Stewart is involved one way or another.

She describes herself as a "facilitator" for different groups of people and is adamant her successes are a result of successful team work rather than solo efforts.

Her employment at Realty Services has given Ms Stewart the opportunity to be the festival director for the Garden and Artfest and the Gartshore Wine and Food Festival, a role she's had for the past six years.

The success of the 2009 Wine and Food Festival translated into a donation of more than $10,000 to Waipuna Hospice.

Ms Stewart has been involved in the Chamber of Commerce Young Enterprise Scheme as a mentor. She is chairperson of the Bay of Plenty Symphonia and a strong advocate for the 16th Ave and Detour theatres.

During the ITM Cup, she helped manage local games and was a volunteer throughout the Rugby World Cup, involved with local games and the final in Auckland.

 Realty Services' Gil Beadle, who nominated Ms Stewart, said she often worked for the community without reward. "In my view she has been an unsung hero over many years."

 

Brian Wright, Bethlehem

Brian Wright is a dedicated member of the Bethlehem Te Puna Lions Club and, at 82, has reached the milestone of 50 years service to Lions International.

He's held many positions in the club and has organised community events that have raised thousands of dollars.

Mr Wright was awarded the Tauranga Community Key Award in 1998. He's also organised two walk-a-thons and raised more than $50,000 for equipment at Tauranga Hospital. In 1999, Mr Wright was chairman of the Lions fundraising committee that raised $60,000 for Waipuna Hospice's in-patient unit.

He's a trustee of the Ripeka Nicholas Memorial Trust, past president of the Tauranga Retailers Association and has been actively involved in appeals for the Royal New Zealand Foundation of the Blind, the Cancer Society, the Heart Foundation and Waipuna Hospice.

For the past three months, Mr Wright has been project chairman for the Lions latest fundraiser, that will provide Avalon Training Centre with a new 12-seater Transit mini bus, worth $60,800. The bus is expected to be delivered to the Te Puna organisation this month. In 2005, Mr Wright received a QSM award for his contribution to the community.

Te Puna Lions Club member Nicolas Wynne, who nominated Mr Wright, said he was a hard-working community man.

 

Pete Blackwell, Tauranga

Pete Blackwell is a hard-working, dedicated police officer and a recognisable face in the Bay of Plenty.

In 1995, Mr Blackwell and a group of fellow police officers had an idea to auction a small number of items and raised $200 for the community. Sixteen years later, the Tauranga Police CIB Charity Luncheon has grown substantially and over the years, the event has raised a total of about $1.25 million for the community.

Each year, two community groups receive the proceeds raised at the luncheon.

These have included Tauranga Housing Community Trust, Te Aranui Youth Trust and the Positive Pathways Programme.

More than 1000 people attended this year's auction, which was held at the new TECT Arena at Baypark and raised more than $250,000.

The two major recipients were Tauranga Riding for the Disabled and ImpacTauranga, which each received $100,000.

Mr Blackwell travelled to Christchurch and donated $15,000 to The Canterbury Youth Development Programme and $10,000 to The Emergency Care Foundation at Christchurch Hospital. The remainder of the money was given to other organisations.

He also set up and is a trustee of The Decision Reach Youth Trust, which enabled future leaders in our community to attend an outdoor pursuits programme.

Graeme and Leona Smith, who nominated Mr Blackwell, said he had made a "huge difference" to the Western Bay community and had gone above and beyond the call of duty to help others.

 

Peter Ombler, Te Puke

Peter Ombler is well known in the kiwifruit industry.

Mr Ombler is the president of the NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated and director of Kiwifruit Vine Health, the organisation set up to deal with the Psa crisis.

He is a kiwifruit grower from Welcome Bay and a kiwifruit industry politician and advocate.

Since the Psa ordeal began, Mr Ombler has dealt with the media, been the voice of the growers and led the kiwifruit industry and growers with pride and strength.

Mr Ombler has chaired and led grower meetings and applied his orchard knowledge to finding and developing solutions to Psa. One person who nominated him said Mr Ombler had shown exceptional leadership qualities and had fought tirelessly for the industry.

Mike Chapman, chief executive of NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated, said without Mr Ombler's contribution, the organisation would not have reached the point where there was "definite hope for the future".

After three years as president, Mr Ombler will step down this month.

 

Ray Thomas, Tauranga

Whenever Tauranga Riding for the Disabled needs help, staff phone Ray Thomas.

Mr Thomas, 75, has volunteered at the Welcome Bay organisation for almost three years. He fixes fences, troughs, maintains paddocks and carries out any other job that needs doing.

With a positive attitude to match, Mr Thomas is highly valued at Tauranga Riding for the Disabled.

Karen Clarke, who nominated him, said the work Mr Thomas completed was invaluable.

"He's extremely friendly and kind and gets on with a task with no fuss, just works quietly and professionally. We don't know what we'd do without Ray."

Ms Clarke said the work he did was worth "well over $1000 a year".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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