Hastings firefighter Brett 'Gonzo' How's widow has accepted a posthumous civic honour on his behalf, saying it was great he got the recognition he deserved and in such good company.

The Hastings District Council's Civic Honours Awards ceremony was held in Hastings on Wednesday night.

His widow Cherie Flintoff gratefully accepted the award for contributions to health and welfare, and encouraged his fellow firefighters to come up on stage with her.

How, who died in January 2018 from lung cancer, was one of 11 individuals and two groups recognised at the ceremony.

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Cherie Flintoff holds a photograph of Brett How. Photo / File
Cherie Flintoff holds a photograph of Brett How. Photo / File

His death is believed to be the first case in New Zealand where ACC treated a firefighter's lung cancer as work-related.

"Brett was recognised for his 20 years of volunteer service to Hawke's Bay Rescue Helicopter," Flintoff said.

"It was a very emotional moment, and it was wonderful for him to get recognition.

"Being humble like so many volunteers he would've just said 'I didn't do anything special'. He used to joke about being a mayor one day, so it would mean a lot to him.

"But he would be the first to acknowledge the volunteers who worked, encouraged and supported him."

How's contributions also included being on the board of Heretaunga Kindergarten Association and he was on the Raureka School board long after his kids had left school, she said.

"If there was something that needed to be done, he would do it. Whenever anyone did anything for a good cause, he always put his hand up."

How's charm and personality meant he was also good at encouraging other people to pitch in and help out, she said.

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"He had such a cheeky grin, and whenever you were around Brett he just made people happy.

"His ongoing legacies include working with the Firefighter Union to get ACC to recognise particular cancers in firefighters as work-related.

"In the end we want to help those who help others, so for people like Brett when cancer strikes they can pick it up in time."

She said he wanted to show people that it did not take a special person to help those in need.

"I want to thank the council and the wider community for the award."

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the council had been celebrating and recognising amazing Hastings people through the Civic Honours Awards for the past 31 years.

"Last night's celebration was a highlight of our year - we came together to recognise our people who through their personal leadership, sacrifice and devotion inspire us all; they make a significant and immensely positive difference to the wellbeing of our people and our beautiful Hastings District.

"A Hastings Civic Honour is the highest award our community can bestow upon a person. I am incredibly proud and grateful for the opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate this year's deserving recipients."

She said the award recipients had helped the community in many ways including organising major sporting, community and cultural events, lifting the health and wellbeing of people across all ages, working tirelessly to improve our special parks, reserves and gardens for everyone to enjoy, keeping the community safe, caring for vulnerable people, and teaching and training youth.

This year's HDC Civic Honours Award recipients

Group award: Cranford Hospice Gardeners (Health & Welfare), Hastings Citizens Advice Bureau (Health & Welfare).

Individual award: Marie Dunningham (posthumous) (Health & Welfare), Patricia Ofa (Health & Welfare), Leon Stallard (Education & Youth), Rodney Triplow (Health & Welfare), Marie Edwards (Recreation & Sport), Selwyn Hawthorne (Recreation & Sport), Joseph Christensen (Arts & Culture), Brett How (posthumous) (Health & Welfare), Joan Thompson (Health & Welfare), Michael Lusk (Recreation & Sport) and Elizabeth Carr (Health & Welfare).