Pride of NZ Awards: Kiwis who deserve recognition

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Nominations are being accepted for the inaugural Pride of New Zealand Awards, celebrating Kiwis whose community actions deserve recognition. Vaimoana Tapaleao meets more nominees.

Head weather analyst Philip Duncan of weatherwatch.co.nz has had a lifelong fascination with the weather. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Head weather analyst Philip Duncan of weatherwatch.co.nz has had a lifelong fascination with the weather. Photo / Brett Phibbs
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The Pride of New Zealand Awards recognise ordinary Kiwis doing big things in their communities.

Philip Duncan

Community spirit category: People will always blame the weatherman when the forecast is wrong. For WeatherWatch head analyst Philip Duncan, it's part and parcel of what he does.

The 36-year-old, who grew up in Te Puke and Te Aroha, has always had a fascination with the weather and the idea of helping people understand what it's all about.

As a young boy, Mr Duncan would go to the library at his school, where his father was principal, and look up books about the weather.

"I just remember going into the library and reading everything I could about clouds and the weather. I'd call my friend and ask what's happening at his house. He'd say it was raining. I'd look outside and note the wind conditions and tell mum and dad: 'It's going to rain in 10 minutes.' Sure enough, it did."

During and after high school, Mr Duncan starting working at an information centre, where he began writing up forecasts for trampers and local companies whose business might be affected by good or bad weather.

For almost 10 years he has run WeatherWatch, a weather service that has become popular for its down-to-earth and personal advice.

"If you email or tweet us, we're going to email you back. I think that's the point of difference for us. For me, it's about the people and it always has been."

Tong Too

Lifetime achievement category: Napier man Tong Too knows how daunting it is settling into a new country, let alone a new town.

So for more than 40 years, he has been a key advocate for minority groups in Hawkes Bay - especially the Chinese community.

"Most of them, when they arrive, they're all pretty reserved and a lot of New Zealanders don't know they exist. I'm there to show [new migrants] how to integrate into society and to showcase their cultures through performances and things like that - so people can see them in the community."

Mr Too is the immediate past president of the Multicultural Association Hawkes Bay. From 1997 to 2009, he served as the Hawkes Bay Chinese Association president and is a founding member of the Ethnic Association in the area.

He has also worked on the NZ Chinese Association as vice-president and was an ethnic adviser for the local council.

A qualified accountant, Mr Too also taught martial arts free for more than 30 years. Now retired, he puts even more effort into his voluntary work with minority groups and helps to organise events such as the Diwali Festival and the Asian in the Bay Awards. He says he regards it as a privilege to be able to assist others.

Harko Brown

Community spirit category: Knowing your roots - even through traditional games played centuries ago - can have a huge impact on youngsters today.

Traditional Maori games have enjoyed a resurgence in the past few years, thanks to people such as Northland man Harko Brown introducing them in the playground.

Mr Brown has voluntarily gone to various schools in the region over the past few years to teach and coach the old Maori sport called ki-o-rahi.

The ball game incorporates a mix of aspects similar to rugby, netball, Aussie rules and touch.

What makes the game particularly unique is that the field includes several carved pou, or pillars, which mark out boundaries. For the first time, a fully carved ki-o-rahi field was built in Waitangi in February last year.

Mr Brown said bringing back "the ways of the old" was something that was connecting youngsters to their past, in a different way.

"It's not just about being warriors. This is a part of them too. When I see people playing the game, it makes me feel proud of our tupuna [ancestors] and what they left with us."

Mr Brown, a teacher, has also accompanied international delegates who have taken part in ki-o-rahi.

"We've played people from Spain, Samoa, Canada, even Italians, French and Germans. It's another way we're showing off our Maori traditions."

For more coverage of the awards, go here or to nominate someone, go to the Pride of New Zealand Awards website.

- NZ Herald

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