New Zealand and Australian firefighters who risked their lives to fight bushfires late last year have been honoured with a spirit of mateship award as part of G'Day NZ Australia Week.
The award, which recognises the firefighters' bravery and strong camaraderie, was presented to the recipients by Tourism Australia chairman and former deputy prime minister Tim Fischer at a gala dinner in Auckland last night.
Eleven firefighters, five of them Kiwis, accepted the award on behalf of all those who fought to control the infernos that ravaged thousands of hectares of land, razed forests and threatened small towns in Victoria.
"It's the first time the firefighters from both countries have been reunited since they worked together, so it was pretty emotional," said Vito Anzelmi, New Zealand general manager of Tourism Australia.
Eleven of the 112 Kiwi firefighters deployed to Victoria were injured and two of them, John Tupara, 48, of Taupo, and Nick McCabe, 45, of Nelson, were among last night's recipients.
The three other Kiwis to receive the award were Ian Millman of Wellington, Angie Rodger of Lower Hutt and Rob Clarke of Helensville.
The award was established last year to honour the depth of friendship between Kiwis and Aussies.