Fifteen Northlanders were honoured with Local Heroes medals as part of the lead-up to next year's New Zealander of the Year Awards.
The awards were presented at Forum North in Whangarei on Monday night by Far North Deputy Mayor Tania McInnes, who said the recipients' selflessness had a profound effect on the lives of many others.
"Those acts of charity, optimism and commitment are what hold a community together and as a community we must stand alongside one another and give thanks for their efforts," she said.
The recipients were Alison and Donald Sargent (Whangarei), Bobbi Jo Crane (Whangarei), Annette Roberts (Paihia), Trevor McKenzie (Waipu), Delecia "Maxi" Thompson (Pataua South), Brian Attwood (Whangarei), Grant Harnish, Heinz Marti, Bruce Gordon, Greg Jones, Trevor Grass and Vern Witehira (Focus Paihia's Hard Core Crew), Kelly van Gaalen (Kaikohe) and Tony Scott (Pakaraka).
A total of 201 medals will be presented nationwide this year with a judging panel due to announce the 10 Kiwibank Local Heroes semifinalists in December. The list will be further whittled down to three finalists in the New Year, with the overall winner due to be named at the New Zealander of the Year Awards in February.
Lesley Leversha, from Auckland's Snells Beach, was also honoured at Monday's ceremony. The current New Zealander of the Year is Kaitaia GP Lance O'Sullivan.
Alison and Donald Sargent (Whangarei)
As members of the Pharmaceutical Society, Alison and Donald established a co-operative pharmaceutical warehouse in Whangarei for Northland pharmacists. It operated for 15 years and was a key resource for the health of Northland residents. Alison is a member of the Christchurch Anglican Choir, a life member of the Whangarei Theatre Company, a member of the Northland Branch of the Institute of Registered Music Teachers and the Whangaruru South Residents and Ratepayers Association. Donald has been a member of the Whangarei Junior Chamber of Commerce, chairman of the Kamo Intermediate School Committee and a Whangarei District councillor. He is on the Oakura Bay Reserves Board and chairs the Whangaruru Coastal Community Group.
Bobbi Jo Crane (Whangarei)
The owner of Corner Cards and Mags, Bobbi Jo is well known in Whangarei as a friend, educator and "second mum", helping people from all walks of life - from a young solo mother who needed financial help, an elderly woman who needed help furniture shopping, or kids gone off the rails who needed stability. As owner of the Lotto shop, she has provided employment and helped upskill people who have been denied chances elsewhere.
Brian Attwood (Whangarei)
A member of the Ruatangata Public Hall Society for more than 35 years and chairman for the past 19, Brian is at the helm of the community's social hub. He was instrumental in trying to save the Ruatangata Pioneers Memorial Church from sale by the Methodist Church. This included a sizeable donation to cover legal costs. For his service to the Whangarei Coastguard, Brian was given a Life Member Award in 2009.
Grant Harnish, Heinz Marti, Bruce Gordon, Greg Jones, Trevor Grass and Vern Witehira (Focus Paihia Hard Core Crew)
The Hard Core Crew is the driving force behind Horotutu Our Place, a community-funded and built waterfront park. Grant is the current chair of Focus Paihia Community Trust; Heinz, chairman of the Community Patrol and Cruise Ship Committee, created the odd-job crew and saw the project through from the first idea to completion. Vern, the town custodian, has taken his role to the next level, cleaning up Paihia and setting up a Community Net group to offer townsfolk extra support. Supplying both his digger and his truck, Bruce played a major role in the construction of Horotutu; Greg built the park's 16 wave seats and Trevor was charged with the electrical work at the park, including an impressive lighting set-up to showcase the park day and night.
Annette Roberts (Paihia)
Annette contributes up to 60 hours each month volunteering in the community. She was one of the founding members of the Paihia Community Patrol and is an active volunteer at Paihia police station. She is also involved in the fire brigade, chairs the Friends of Williams House, a group supporting the local library, and collects wool and postcards for charity. Annette and her husband have been making the round trip to Auckland to donate blood every six weeks for the past 45 years.
Trevor McKenzie (Waipu)
Trevor's five decades of service to the community includes being Waipu's representative on the Whangarei County Council, chairman of the Whangarei County Judicial Committee, chairman of the Whangarei County Pest Destruction Board, foundation member of the Whangarei County Civil Defence Committee and a member of a committee to form the Waipu Fire Brigade. Trevor is also a Justice of the Peace president of the Marsden Combined St John Ambulance and past president of the Waipu Rugby Club.
Delecia "Maxi" Thompson (Pataua South)
The energetic Maxi has been helping the community for the past 30 years. She is a member of the Pataua Area Residents and Ratepayers Association, works with a local youth group and is secretary for the Pataua Outdoor Education Trust, where she helps to organise fundraisers. She is the editor of Bridging The Gap, an independent magazine started by the Pataua Ladies Morning Tea Group and has been a key supporter of the Whangarei Stamp Collectors, International Red Cross, North Haven Hospice and Pataua Fishing Club.
Kelly van Gaalen (Kaikohe)
As chair of the Kaikohe Community Arts Council, Community Board Member and Promotions Co-ordinator of the Kaikohe Business Association, Kelly has been responsible for a number of major projects beautifying Kaikohe. She has also helped develop a number of events such as Sculpture in the Vines and the creation of Santa's Grotto. Her latest project was to install planter boxes and seats around town. In her role as community board member, Kelly was instrumental in developing the Monument Hill gardens.
Tony Scott (Pakaraka)
Although based in the Far North, Tony has been a member of the Auckland Airport Rescue Fire Service for 22 years. He is a dedicated fundraiser, event organiser and the man behind the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge. Tony's idea to race up the tower's 1103 steps was first pitched 10 years ago. In 2005, the event raised $17,500 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand; this year 700 firefighters took part, raising $915,000. Tony hopes to raise more than $1 million next year.