Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Pride of NZ Awards: Firefighter loves to help

Mark Buckley.
Mark Buckley.

The Pride of New Zealand Awards recognise ordinary Kiwis doing big things in their communities.

Anyone can nominate people they feel are unsung heroes, campaigners and leaders working hard to make a difference within their local community.

The awards are a key component of the Herald's 150th birthday celebrations and have been launched in association with The Hits radio station and TSB Bank, and with support from APN regional newspapers.


The six categories honour bravery and heroism, community spirit, environmental leaders, emergency heroes and fundraisers. A special lifetime achievement award will be given and a people's choice award will allow the public to choose their favourites among those nominated.

Nominees will have their story featured in the Herald, APN regional newspapers, The Hits radio station and TSB Bank branches.

Emergency Services category: Volunteer firefighter Mark Buckley has seen his fair share of tragedies over the years.

But it is the miracles and the simple act of being able to help someone in need that has kept him in the job for almost 30 years.

The 48-year-old is the chief fire officer for the Lyttelton Volunteer Fire Brigade, near Christchurch. He has been a volunteer for the brigade for 27 years and has been chief for almost a decade.

During that time he has been called out to hundreds of fires around the region, where more than three generations of his family have lived.

"Over the years we've had quite a few house fires where we've pulled people out. It hasn't always gone our way, but there's one that stands out in my mind."

The brigade had been called to a late-night fire at a property just above a coffee shop in town, where a woman lived.

"There'd been a power outage and she'd lit a candle and fallen asleep."

When Mr Buckley and other officers entered the building and found the woman she had stopped breathing. She was taken to hospital and survived.

"That night we saved someone's life and that's always something that's stuck with me. That was one of the best moments. It just brings home why you joined; to help others and to make somebody else's life a little bit easier."

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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