Meet our 2023 Community Honours Award recipients

Published: 25 September 2023

Eight people and two groups were celebrated at this year’s Community Honours Awards, which recognised the contributions and achievements of the Ashburton District’s outstanding volunteers.

The Mayor's Award for Public Service (4)

Jack Allan

Jack Allan has spent the best part of his 80 years working for his community in a wide range of district activities, often tennis, golf and Lions but also recently to the Mt Somers Walkways Society.

Mid Canterbury Tennis is eternally grateful to him, as no doubt every other organisations Jack has volunteered for and supported would be.

He is described as a very humble man, who never sought the limelight, and an absolute team player who works tirelessly and enthusiastically to support and mentor those around him.

Jack’s ability to identify, encourage and mentor new committee members is unsurpassed and he ensured that tennis was run by an actively engaged group of skilled and committed people.

He was a tennis player and administrator, and was a major driver in upgrading the Ashburton grass courts to the facility we now know as the Braided Rivers Community Trust Tennis Centre. He played a major part in securing funding and sponsorships and formed great relationships – he helped the Centre gain its reputation as the best regional tennis facility in the South Island.

In 2015 he was appointed as a trustee of the Advance Ashburton Community Foundation and was hugely respected because of his knowledge of the district and things that might benefit it. He was also an inaugural trustee of the Ashburton Housing and Support Trust and an independent trustee of the Ashburton Trust Charitable Foundation and was later appointed to the Distribution Committee of the Lion Foundation.

Jack was a handy golfer and helped the Mayfield Golf Club bring plans for a new clubhouse to fruition. He was heavily involved in a major makeover of the course too, doing not only assisting with the design, but also using a shovel and rake.

Jack also gave 12 years of service to the Ashburton Trading Society, eight as Chairman, where his talents helped shape a very successful co-operative, and he gave countless hours to the Mayfield and District’s Lions Club over 40-plus years.

He is a community-minded person who showed strong leadership to make things happen.

Mayor Neil Brown and Lee Allan

Mayor Neil Brown with Lee Allan, who accepted the award on behalf of her father Jack Allan.

Lindsay Holland

Lindsay’s work ethic, passion and strong sense of community service are evident every day, whether he is collecting books for Bookarama or showing visitors around the Lynn Woodwork Museum.

One thing is certain, and that he is always smiling, always enthusiastic and never finds any request too difficult.

He has dedicated much of his life to improving the economic and social wellbeing of the Ashburton District through the many hours he volunteers – particularly with 45 years service to Bookarama, preserving local history and helping others record their history, and championing regional economic development and small business initiatives.

Lindsay had only just joined the Ashburton Rotary Club in 1978 when the club tried running a secondhand book fair as a fundraiser. He became a key organiser, collector of books and spotter of special literature. Bookarama now raises more than $50,000 annually for the community.

Lindsay is also a trustee and volunteer with the Lynn Woodwork Museum Trust, where he builds cabinets to house over 12,000 donated items. The trust runs a museum of woodworking tools and lathes.

He has also volunteered with the Ashburton District Family History Group for over 20 years and helped photograph over 20,000 headstones in cemeteries all over the district. These have been uploaded to Council’s cemetery records and help other people trace their family history.

Lindsay was handy when it came to woodwork and worked part time for Lynns Joinery in the off season from running his mobile seed cleaning plant , before starting with his wife Elizabeth  their own wood products manufacturing business making toys and puzzles using native timbers and offcuts from the joinery shop.

He has been a member of the Ashburton Town Watch Society for 14 years which operates the Ashburton Community Patrol.

He was chairman of the Ashburton Small Business Group and the Ashburton Chamber of Commerce for a number of years, and was appointed to the South Canterbury Regional Development Board for six years.

He was active Mountaineer and was also appointed to the Aoraki Conservation Board  for six years

His business acumen, his energy and enthusiasm for this district’s people and environment are very much appreciated.

Mayor Neil Brown and Lindsay Holland

Mayor Neil Brown with Lindsay Holland.

Eddie Oakley

Eddie Oakley has served the district of Rakaia for most of his life.

From the age of nine he was a foundation member of the Rakaia Pony Club. His sporting pastimes were rugby, tennis, athletics and latterly golf. At one stage or another he chaired all these organisations. In 2001 he returned to the rugby club to chair the 125th jubilee celebrations.

In his early farming years he joined the Lauriston Young Farmers club and subsequently became the chairman. He moved on to the Rakaia branch of Federated Farmers. Very few attended meetings and so instead of meetings he and two others shared the chairmanship of the branch and organised field days with the help of Crop and Food. Large numbers of interested people from all over Canterbury attended. These days morphed into FAR field days which continue to be held. Also in the early years he was involved with five others in the first farm discussion group.

Eddie was always a member of the Rakaia Ploughing Mach Association, and he and Bronwyn hosted the NZ final in 2002.

Eddie stood successfully for the Ashburton County Council and served two terms before the County and Borough councils amalgamated. He was in the first batch of Councillors for the new Council, serving a total of nine years for the Rakaia community until 1992.

He was the Council representative on the Rakaia Reserves Board and Hall Committee and he continued as a member of both until recently.

On leaving the Council he quickly became Federated Farmers Arable chairman. This was during a crucial period for agriculture in the 1980’s.

Perhaps the most onerous task he took on was the organising of writing the Rakaia History book. This was accomplished in six years with the help of a small and dedicated committee. It was a very successful project, over seven hundred copies have sold. The publication has earned recognition as a unique publication of its kind.

He is a foundation member of The Lions Club of Rakaia chartered in 1976. Along with the other foundation member they have compiled a book of the history of the club.

So many Rakaia organisations have been lucky to benefit from Eddie’s skills and enthusiasm over the years and the district is better for his touch.

Eddie Oakley

Mayor Neil Brown with Eddie Oakley and Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan.

Charles Ross

Charles Ross is a hardworking volunteer that has led the Sharplin Falls track redevelopment for the Mt Somers Walkways Society.

The Westerfield farmer brought a lifetime of experience tramping when he joined the society and as chairperson, he has implemented a solid programme of working bees, upgrading and improvements.

The new Sharplin Falls track has been a special project. The old track was closed in 2015 due to risk of rockfall and the Department of Conservation would not rebuild it.

Charles set about finding a new safe route to the falls – he had a vision for a new track so present and future generations could enjoy the Sharplin Falls experience, just as past generations had.

After a lot of hard work, a potential track was discovered and this was when Charles’ leadership skills really came to the fore. He fundraised, he consulted, he organised, he communicated and he was never in any doubt about the project succeeding.

He kept everyone in the picture, his delegation of duties was well thought out and he trusted others to carry out instructions.

With Department of Conservation agreeing to the track, he then became project manager, overseeing the construction of the new bridges that were needed. This involved supervising helicopters flying in concrete, scaffolding and later the bridges themselves. He had a huge email list keeping everyone up to date on progress and future work programmes.

Whenever the work gang shingling the track ran short of gravel, Charles would turn up with another truckload.
The project cost $560,000, with most raised from grants and donations; it also involved 5000 hours of voluntary labour.

This year, on 23 June, the Tahekerua Sharplin Falls Track was officially opened and in the subsequent weeks, up to 300 people a day walked to the falls. The track is a huge asset to this district and would never have been done had it not been for Charles Ross.

Charles Ross

Mayor Neil Brown, Charles Ross and Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan.

Ashburton Medal (2)

Val Clemens

Val has been involved in conservation work over a long time and her work with schools is raising awareness of biodiversity and conservation amongst a new generation.

Val is a member of the Ashburton District Biodiversity Advisory Group and is well respected by those around the meeting table. She is an active member of the Wakanui Beach Restoration working group, has been a member of Forest and Bird for over 25 years and is a founding member of the Ashburton Community Conservation Trust which administers the Harris Scientific Reserve.

Her knowledge and practical experience are hugely valued, in projects large and small, private or community.

In 2011, Val was asked to help save a rare endemic daisy known locally as the Wakanui Craspedia, found only near Wakanui Beach. After the number of surviving plants dropped to 3 individuals, and with help from scientists, the landowners and local volunteers, the plant has been propagated and is now growing successfully at the Harris Reserve and Christchurch Botanic Gardens.

Val has been involved in other replanting events at Wakanui Beach since 2017 and has built an ongoing relationship with Wakanui School teachers and students. She has taught them about seed collection and how to make seed bombs, which were launched by catapult into the thick gorse bushes around the beach.

She has passed on her passion to the students, which has resulted in the school now having its own biodiversity garden projects.

Her work with the Ashburton Community Conservation Trust has involved developing the Harris Scientific Reserve – 11 hectares at Maronan which is dedicated to protecting remnants of kanuka, which once covered the Canterbury plains. Thousands of Kanuka and other locally sourced native plants have been added and the aim is to show present and future generations what the dry areas of the Canterbury Plains once looked like, and to provide seed from endangered plants for other projects in the district.

Val has been a persistent and inspirational advocate for native plants in our district and has not been afraid to get her hands dirty in the pursuit of saving native plants and creating awareness in an area that has lost much of its native biodiversity.

Mayor Neil Brown and Val Clemens

Mayor Neil Brown with Val Clemens.

Hakatere Marae

The Hakatere Marae is everyone’s marae – once you have been welcomed onto it, you belong, regardless of iwi or hapu, or not being Māori.

The marae has been an important facility for the district since the early 1970s, when the former Fairton School building was sold to the Mid Canterbury Māori Committee. The wharenui was destroyed by arson in 2003 and the facility rebuilt bigger and stronger.

Now, it offers much to the Mid Canterbury community, through support and services, learning and commemoration.
The marae is run by a small group of trustees, supported by committee members under the leadership of chair Michelle Brett and coordinator Tania Reuben. In 2022, when covid was in the community, the marae provided hot cooked meals to those who needed them, and as well as care packages and activity packs for children. Members of the marae prepared and cooked at least 1500 hot meals.

This year, the marae partnered with Food Bank Canterbury to make up food parcels for those in need, and local food pantries were also set up in Ashburton. Other initiatives included a weekly programme for older (members of the community, with shared food and time to chat; and help for others with challenges in the legal, health and housing areas.

The marae provides accommodation as needed and cultural education, as well as hosting workshops and community events.

Each year the marae also acknowledges the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi by running a special event which provides an opportunity for the community to gather, share fun, learning and activities on an important day in our history.
In the past three years the marae has hosted a Matariki celebration, aimed at drawing people together to share food, music, stalls and displays telling the story of Matariki.

This is a special place in our district.

Hakatere Marae committee and Mayor Neil Brown

Michelle Brett and her team from the Hakatere Marae, with Mayor Neil Brown.

Civic Awards (4)

Thelma Bell

Thelma has been involved with the Multi-Cultural Bite since its inception in 2010 and she has championed the food and community connections generated by what has become an annual event that draws thousands to Ashburton every February on Waitangi Day.

The Multi-Cultural Bite was the first project of the Newcomers Network and Thelma was the coordinator. She became a trustee when the Multi-Cultural Bite became a charitable trust and she has chaired the trust since 2014.

Thelma laid the foundation for an event that gathers together all the ethnic communities in our district. She looks out for Filipinos here and outside the district, helping them navigate things like buying their first home, or dealing with schools, medical events, or helping in dealings with police or the district court.

She has been a Justice of the Peace for 10 years.

Thelma also represents Ashburton in the national body of the New Zealand Multicultural Council and is currently the treasurer of the Ethnic Women’s Council.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics in the Philippines and came to New Zealand in 1987 where she competed a Teaching and Learning Diploma at the University of Canterbury. She met her local kiwi husband and moved to Ashburton.

Thelma enjoys sharing Filipino culture, history and traditions, and food is an important part of that. The Multi-Cultural Bite festival brings flavours of the world to Ashburton and helps showcase the district’s wider diversity.

The national dishes of countries as diverse as Nepal, Brazil, Italy and the Ukraine, are a chance for people to sample many flavours, and the day includes fun and games, and entertainment.

Thelma embraces it all.

Mayor Neil Brown and Thelma Bell

Mayor Neil Brown and Thelma Bell

Cezarne Rodgers

Cezarne Rodgers is the unit commander of the Ashburton Cadet Unit and holds the rank of Major. Cadets have been part of her life since 1989 and she has given 34 years of service and leadership.

She cares about the youth of our community and wants to work alongside them to help them become the best they can be. She also works as a teacher aide at Ashburton College.

Cezarne was appointed unit commander at just 22 years of age, making her the youngest unit commander in all of cadet forces at that time and under her leadership the unit has flourished, winning many awards.

Her life centres around serving the unit and if there is a military commemoration in Ashburton, you will find Cezarne present – whether it is Armistice Day commemorations or the dawn ceremony, Hakatere Marae service, cemetery or civil service on Anzac Day.

A back injury prevented Cezarne from joining the New Zealand Army and despite still having that injury she just gets on and gets things done.

It is not just the Ashburton Cadet Unit that has benefited from her skills and time. She has staffed non-commissioned officer courses,  competitions, national and overseas tours and bush craft courses, and continues to run and staff courses regularly. This year she reached the milestone of 100 NZCF courses attended as both a student and a staff member since joining cadets.

Under her command, the Ashburton unit have not only concentrated on skills related to the military, but they have also taken an active part in community life by assisting the Ashburton RSA on Poppy Day and collecting for the Red Cross and Salvation Army, the Ashburton Silver Band during Christmas carolling and the Ashburton County Lions Toot for Tucker to name just a few.

Cezarne gives to the young people to encourage and inspire them to be good citizens, serve their community, take pride in themselves and develop their potential. Over 34 years, she has been the backbone of the Ashburton Cadet Unit and shown loyalty, dedication, reliability, initiative, trustworthiness and natural leadership.

Mayor Neil Brown and Cezarne Rodgers

Mayor Neil Brown and Cezarne Rodgers

Michael Ross

Michael has given extraordinary voluntary service to the Ashburton Railway and Preservation Society.

He is a founding member of the society, joining in 1970, and remains an active working member today. The railway opened in 1973 and the foundations of the museum village began then.

Over the past 50 years, Michael has been a crew member for the railway as a guard, railcar driver and shunter driver. He has also been president, and served as committee member and section convenor.

His interest in both vintage tractors and machinery means he is an all rounder who can also help out with the cropping and harvesting of produce that provide important income for the society.

Michael ensures skills and knowledge are passed on to younger generations in the railway or rural history sections and he has trained many past and present members to operate the vintage diesel railcar or trained members to shunt trains, both essential for our public open days. He has a keen eye for health and safety.

His positive attitude and enthusiasm around the site have made him a highly respected working member and he proudly represents the society at A&P shows, vintage machinery rallies and other events.

Michael also has a great memory and recall of the organisation and its members and this has been essential as the history of the society is recorded – he also has a huge photo collection.

It is impossible to estimate the thousands of voluntary hours that Michael has put into the railway and preservation society, and he continues to give.

He has unselfishly dedicated 50 plus years of his life, ensuring an important community asset continues to operate successfully.

Michael Ross

Mayor Neil Brown, Michael Ross and Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan

Phat Bastards

This group of social mountainbikers, with an average age in the late-40s, known as drinkers with a biking problem, raised over $75,000 for the Ashburton District by riding a 10km loop track near the Ashburton River for 48 hours.

It was no mean feat and they clocked up 6200km, their energy and enthusiasm attracting many donations.

The money was distributed to Ashburton Hospice, Methven Search and Rescue and the Farming Families Charitable Trust.

The Phats have been a consistent feature of the Ashburton mountainbiking scene for five years. They have helped develop tracks in Methven and Ashburton through working bees, and have raised and donated money for projects along the way.

The 48-hour ride earlier this year has been their biggest adventure so far, and it was a team effort involving many of their 50-odd members. It can’t have been easy when legs were tired and the track was only visible with the help of a tiny lamp on their helmets.

Members have spent over 500 hours annually helping tidy up mountainbike tracks in the district and rehabilitating those tracks after flood events. They devoted time, money and skills to ongoing general maintenance and upgrades, ensuring that not only Phat Bastards, but anyone, can have some mountainbike fun and exercise.

The Phat Bastards are a committed group of Mid Cantabrians who take pride in their community and arguably have promoted and driven the popularity of mountainbiking in our district.

Phat Bastards leader and chief fundraiser Dean Harrison

Leader of the fundraising mountainbikers Dean Harrison.

Share this article

More News

View all news