Builder David Wight has contributed to Kuaotunu and Opito Bay since the early 1970s.

That contribution has been recognised in today's Queen's Birthday Honours, in which Wight has been awarded a Queen's Service Medal for services to the community.

Wight and his wife Christine bought a property in Opito in the northern Coromandel 47 years ago.

He led negotiations to get electricity to the tiny settlement in the 1970s, having brought their children Kim and Eric up "without many luxuries", using a generator and Tilley lamps to get by.


In 1976 he initiated the New Year's Day beach activities and fishing contest at Opito which continue to this day.

He served on the Ratepayers' Association for two decades, negotiating contracts with the council for public toilets and a more efficient rubbish collection.

He would regularly clean out and deal with the rubbish and green waste himself, completing the task when he had a digger on the job site that was spare for a few hours.

"Blackjack Rd [from Kuaotunu to Otama] was just a tip for a long time, people would just tip rubbish over the side of the road. In 40 years there's more education, and your thoughts do change as you get older," he said.

Wight built the Kuaotunu Store with Christine and their friends Dugald and Barbara Hoyland 42 years ago, effectively creating a village in the former gold town that had dwindled to a tiny population at the time.

Prior to that, he ran a delivery service to "folks over the hill" at the beaches of Opito and Otama, where up to 150 campers would pitch tents in the dunes.

He was the Search and Rescue co-ordinator in Opito Bay and helped with numerous emergencies.

When there was nowhere else available, his shed was sometimes even used as a temporary morgue.


His fundraising efforts included helping to raise money for lifesaving equipment at the Coromandel beaches, which were hugely popular with visitors and bach owners in the summertime.

He said small communities sometimes got "breakaway" groups when controversy arrived, and it was a particular challenge living in a place where a large holiday and non-resident population descended each summer.

It was important, he said, to refrain from speaking your mind straight away. "When people are up in the air about something or somebody, I don't react straight away. I think you have got to think about the situation. If you are too rash, you can make a mistake yourself."

He has given 38 years of service to the Kuauotunu Volunteer Fire Brigade, including 34 as chief fire officer, and was among the volunteers locally who built the station themselves.

As a voluntary fire officer and chief, he said valuing volunteers was vital. "I ran the brigade according to two rules - everybody deserves a holiday once a year, and when you're a volunteer - your family always come first."

Wight said he had always enjoyed giving to his community, even when people did not seem to appreciate his behind-the-scenes work.

"I suppose it boils down to the beauty of the [Coromandel] peninsula. It's a magical place. They can cart me out in a box from here.

"I think everybody would benefit if they could volunteer something. On last count, I think there were 54 volunteer organisations in Whitianga. I do think it just helps one become more tolerant, which a lot of us need."