Rotorua's Apumoana Marae Charitable Trust made a lasting impression at the weekend's Trustpower Community Awards.

Bob Te Aonui and Heidi Symon represented the trust, going head-to-head with volunteer groups and projects around the country at the Saturday awards, which were held in Tauranga.

The trust came out on top at the Rotorua regional awards last year, which earned them a place in the nationals.

Trustpower community and communications advisor Alice Boyd said although the group did not win any of the national awards, it was clear the marae had a "very bright future" ahead of it.

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"The people of Apumoana Marae have a long history of service and support to their people and local community, through the provision of cultural awareness and wellbeing, environment education, tourism, accommodation and iwi/community engagement."

Boyd said hearing about how Apumoana Marae providing use of the marae at little or no cost for all people in the community was a real inspiration for many of the groups at the awards.

"We have no doubt the people of Apumoana Marae will continue to do great things for their community."


Twenty-six voluntary organisations from around the country were in Tauranga for the awards ceremony.

Under The Stars, a group that helps Tauranga's homeless people, received the newly introduced Whetū Mātaiata Award.

Matipo Community Development Charitable Trust, representing Whanganui District,
was named supreme winner and South Catlins Charitable Trust, a group representing Invercargill City and Southland District, was runner-up.

At the event, held at Holy Trinity in the central city, each organisation delivered an eight-minute presentation.

It was a chance to share their stories and achievements and make a case for why they deserved the title of the Trustpower National Community Awards Supreme Winner.

All 26 had already won a regional award to get to the nationals, and their presentations on Saturday were judged alongside a 1000-word summary submitted before the event.

Liz Kite, from Under the Stars, said she was just honoured to be there, as regional winner for Tauranga City. She was the first person to present on Saturday morning.

"It's such an opportunity to speak for what we do and the people we serve on the streets and the needy in our community."

Liz Kite from Under the Stars in Tauranga. Photo / Andrew Warner
Liz Kite from Under the Stars in Tauranga. Photo / Andrew Warner

Kite said she wanted to share a message about being kind to homeless people, about being there for them and about having compassion for the state that they're in.

"The mental illness state that some of them are in," she then added.

"Under the Stars provides as much as we can to help their wellbeing."

Representing Whakatāne District, Lee Heappey and Helen Morris, from the Edgecumbe Development and Improvement Team (E.D.I.T), shared how their group had pulled together and beautified Edgecumbe since the 2017 flood.

"We are definitely moving forward in a creative way," Heappey said.

Morris said it was inspiring to see and hear what other groups from around New Zealand were doing for their communities.

"And it's all different … it's food for thought and it just shows you how compassionate people are about what they're doing."

For Western Bay of Plenty District, Ian Hurlock and Geoff Oliver, from the Maketū Volunteer Coastguard, said their presentation was less about rescues and more about the organisation's involvement in the community: training people, helping people understand how to be safe on the water, or operate their boat safely.

"And working in the community to educate people, moreover."

Ian Hurlock (left) and Geoff Oliver from the Maketū Volunteer Coastguard. Photo / Andrew Warner
Ian Hurlock (left) and Geoff Oliver from the Maketū Volunteer Coastguard. Photo / Andrew Warner

Oliver said the volunteer coastguard, like other rescue organisations in attendance, was all about volunteers putting a lot of time in to bring people home safely.

He has been volunteering at the Maketū coastguard for 13 years.

"I got involved in a couple of rescues with a small group where we had some preventable fatalities and so we set it up, really, to make sure people along that coastline where we are, are a lot safer."

Hurlock has been volunteering for two years, since the coastguard rescued his son.