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

Pride of NZ: Fundraising firefighter a local legend

Popular Sky Tower challenge one of many causes keeping ‘Scottie’ busy year-round

Auckland firefighter Tony Scott admits he would not know what to do with himself if he did not have a fundraising event to organise.

Mr Scott - known to his mates as "Scottie" - is well-known for his fundraising efforts that have become almost legendary amongst firefighters around the country.

The 43-year-old, a member of the Auckland Airport Rescue Fire Service, volunteers for events and functions throughout the year. But it is the annual Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge that he is most known for. The increasingly popular event, which he first pitched a decade ago, raised just over $800,000 for charity this year.

"I've always liked organising things. It's just something I like to do.

"The time of the day when the event's all over and people are laughing and smiling - that's why I like doing it, to see that moment ... "

Mr Scott, who grew up in Auckland and Thames, and now lives in Northland, said keeping busy was another reason he liked to help.

"We've got a TV here but it's hardly ever on," he laughed. "My family - my partner and my kids - all help me with the events too. Without them, I couldn't do it all."

Friend and firefighter Peter George, of the Taumarunui Volunteer Fire Brigade, nominated Mr Scott for the award.

Mr George said he met Mr Scott at his first Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge in 2011.

"He was ... just a ball of energy. So I was really surprised when it came time for the challenge and he was in line. Straight after that he had to dash out to help organising the dinner that night. He made a real impression on me that day."

Mr George said the annual Sky Tower challenge had become almost a rite of passage for firefighters around the country.

"Scottie does every single stairway challenge and comes out to all the events. All the [money] he brings in is way above anybody else's and his team is always the top. He deserves all the recognition he gets."

Pride taken in river fight

When the local council planned to build waste water ponds on Mahia Peninsula in Hawkes Bay in 2010 Kathleen Mato worried about the impact on seabeds in the catchment area.

So she set about making people aware of the plan to ensure safeguards were put in place to protect the Whangawehi River, and its outlet.

She wanted some assurances the Kaimoana beds in the Mahia Peninsula would be protected from pollution.

She lobbied local people including three marae to get their support, and succeeded in reaching formal agreement with affected stakeholders to protect water quality.

Pride of NZ Awards: Kathleen Mato


A Memorandum of Understanding between stakeholders including the Hawkes Bay Regional Council and Wairoa District Council was signed in July 2011. The agreement formalised an arrangement to work together, respect each other's beliefs, and also secured an undertaking that any leakage would be cleaned up. A year later, five more signatories were added including two landholders, the Department of Conservation, iwi and a forestry company.

Kathleen Mato, 71, says she campaigned "full-time for love" with the Whangawehi Catchment Group and is proud of what she achieved. Monica Holt

Voting is now open for the TSB Bank People's Choice Award. The Herald will profiling each of the 24 national finalists. Voting closes 11.59pm on September 7, with the awards to take place on September 10. Decide who you think is the most deserving. You are only able to vote once, so choose wisely. You can register your vote here.

* For more awards information, visit:

- NZ Herald

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