Culture & Events

Civic Awards recognise inspirational Hamiltonians

Photo from the 2021 Civic Awards held at Waikato Stadium, Hamilton, New Zealand. Taken: Thursday 8 April 2021. Photo: Mike Walen / KeyImagery Photography. Copyright: © Hamilton City Council.

This year’s first round of Hamilton City Council Civic Awards features a wide variety of individuals making a difference for people in their community and beyond.

These award nominees include:

  • a tireless business, community and charity supporter
  • a creator of a sport-focused, business-sponsored charity helping rangatahi (youth) overcome barriers to their future
  • a wahine toa caring for Hamilton communities from her humble garage and beyond
  • a supporter of Korean war veterans, honouring them in memory of his brother.

These are just four of the nine impressive recipients who received their Civic Award yesterday at a ceremony held at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Chair of the Civic Honours Committee, Councillor Martin Gallagher, says it’s no easy task selecting individuals for the Awards. “We’re also aware that recipients can only represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Hamiltonians doing great things for others in our community,” he says.

“Each of these nine people have contributed to their city, its people and their future in their own unique way. Their efforts are ensuring that those who need practical and emotional support, friendship, life skills, employment skills – or just a listening ear – get what they need.”

Together, each ceremony’s award recipients represent a contribution of thousands of hours of service to the city through their respective causes, something Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate is acutely aware of.

“Our volunteers are involved in real passion projects and much of their work is under the radar. They simply get on with it, quietly and without fuss. It’s not about accolades, it’s about doing the right thing to make their community and our city a better place,” Southgate said.

“That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing and I am extremely grateful to live in a city that values and honours people whose priority in life is to do good, on behalf of others. I thank them for that.”

The Civic Awards recognise substantial service of a voluntary nature or beyond normal employment benefiting the city of Hamilton and its people.  The recipients were selected by a panel consisting of Councillors Gallagher, Southgate, Mark Bunting, Ryan Hamilton, Kesh Naidoo-Rauf and Maangai Maaori Olly Te Ua and Te Pora Thompson-Evans. The selections were ratified in the Council meeting on 18 March 2021.

Civic Award recipients

  • Vinod Bhika
  • Lauren Kerr-Bell
  • Gemma Major
  • Thomas Nabbs
  • Tony Marchioni
  • Margaret Stannard
  • Warren Turnwald
  • Annie Williams
  • Roy Wilson

Vinod Bhika

Well-known throughout the Frankton community, Vinod has become the first ‘port of call’ for people there since he took over management of it markets in 1989. He also welcomes in every new business, offering friendship and support, helping them and the community willingly: often in his own time.

Vinod is often affectionately called ‘the Mayor of Frankton’, in recognition of his passion and enthusiasm for this unique Hamilton village suburb. His other more formal roles have included President of the Frankton Business Association and Chair of the Hamilton-400 Community Board.

Truly the essence of ‘community’, Vinod’s always got a new ‘project’ on the go – from supporting talented young people, to being the go-between for new businesses to Frankton when dealing with Council. Vinod is also a strong advocate and voice for the ethnic community.

His work with the Cancer Society’s Youth Ambassador Programme has also seen Vinod raising awareness and funds for the Cancer Society Lions Lodge and the overall organisation. He spearheaded the Society’s Greg Murphy evening, raising $20,000 – which also provided an opportunity for the Society to engage with men in the Waikato around the importance of preventative cancer checks. As the Society says, “while many talk about their ideas, Vinod follows through: we will always be grateful for our association with this wonderful local hero”.

Lauren Kerr-Bell

Lauren is an arts advocate, passionate creative, event organiser and collaborator. She has contributed a huge amount to the local creative community, mainly to the music scene. Here, Lauren has had a particularly huge impact on the vibrancy, sense of community, and the upskilling and capability development of a huge number of young creative people. She’s on the Hamilton Live Music Trust, runs the Waikato Music Expo, and supports groups like The Volume Collective and the Hamilton Fringe.

Lauren is hugely motivated and proactive. She makes things happen and creates experiences for the city that make Hamilton an interesting and better place to be. Her efforts are often for the selfless benefit of creating opportunities for other people to share their creative work.

She works tirelessly on celebrated events such as the iconic Circle Jerk [and others], that may not resonate with people in the halls of power, but are legendary in what could be termed Hamilton’s ‘underground scene’. Many Hamiltonians have been moved or affected by her work, yet most are unaware of who has been behind it.

Over time, Lauren has built up an enviable level of music industry knowledge, which she willingly shares over and over, often setting aspiring musicians on the best path to secure funding or performance opportunities.

Gemma Major

Gemma is the co-founder and CEO of Seed Waikato, an award-winning, registered charity that provides experiences and opportunities for the Waikato region’s young people to connect and grow. Previously with Momentum Waikato, Gemma is passionate about the difference that philanthropic giving can create in our communities and sits on the board of Philanthropy New Zealand as well as being a Youth Advisor for the organisation.

Led by young people, for young people, Seed Waikato’s goal is to empower greater wellbeing among 18 to 35 year olds, building community connectedness and strengthening resilience so everyone thrives. As well as managing Seed Waikato, Gemma has supported its 30 volunteers and held over 26 workshop events bringing together over 2400 people. This has enabled Gemma to create an inclusive and empowering culture that continues to provide opportunities both internally and externally.

Through her networks and strong drive, Gemma was also a driving force behind a submission in 2018 to the New Zealand Governments’ Mental Health Inquiry, alongside other community partners. This submission brought together the voices and lived experiences of over 100 people in the Waikato community.

To support and guide others, Gemma has also openly shared her own lived experiences and struggles with the community through various media channels including Newshub, the Chain of Heart Blog, being a speaker at PechaKucha and at her University Graduation as the graduate speaker.

Thomas Nabbs

Thomas has positively transformed the lives of hundreds of disadvantaged youth and inspired thousands more teenagers, by founding a not-for-profit organisation known locally as ‘The WaterBoy’. The WaterBoy’s sole purpose is to create stronger people and communities by helping youth overcome barriers and create personal development opportunities to help rangatahi (youth) flourish. Thomas founded Te Tamawai Charitable Trust (aka The WaterBoy) in 2015 to help Kiwis unable to participate in sport, through no fault of their own. The WaterBoy connects business sponsors with people, mostly children, to help them overcome barriers related to finance, family dysfunction, disability, family violence, sexuality, age, and more. The WaterBoy has mentored and supported over 100 children to participate in sport, and that number is expected to double within the next year.

The WaterBoy has also positively impacted thousands of teenagers through its Everybody’s Game – ‘homophobia in sport’ presentation. This has made a monumental attitude shift in the acceptance of the LGBTQ community. The Trust is also the first organisation to have an All Black publicly stand up in support of this community.

Thomas is passionate about the role sport plays in making our people stronger. However, he also realises that sport is only one part of becoming a well-rounded happy individual who contributes to a stronger New Zealand – hence his vision is about WaterBoy making stronger New Zealand communities overall.

Tony Marchioni

Alongside supporting and remembering our war veterans from WWI and WWII, it’s also important to consider those who represented New Zealand in smaller, more recent conflicts. Tony’s efforts to honour his lost brother’s memory is a shining example of this.

On 25 August 1951, Tony’s older brother, Able Seaman Robert Marchioni, was killed in the Korean War while taking part in a raid behind enemy lines.

Despite valiant efforts from members of the assault party from HMNZS Rotoiti, AB Marchioni’s body was never recovered.

He was the only Royal New Zealand Navy battle fatality during the Korean War, and was awarded a Korea Medal, a United Nations Korea Medal and a New Zealand Memorial Cross.

However, the most enduring and practical tribute to Robert has been his brother Tony’s tireless work to support Korean War (also known as K-Force) veterans.

Tony is always the ‘go-to man’ who runs raffles at the RSA Club to supplement the cost of quarterly luncheons for K-Force veterans.

He’s the one who visits veterans in hospital to look out for their welfare and wellbeing.

He also always makes sure local veterans receive a dignified funeral complete with honour guards at the service and a bugler to perform The Last Post.

Margaret Stannard

Nominated for her award by the Rotary Club of Hamilton East, Margaret has supported St John, Kiwiwatch, NZ Police, the Waikato/BOP and the NZ Blind Bowls associations and her local bowling club in Beerescourt. They comment that Margaret lives her life helping other who are less fortunate than herself, and doing something for other for no reward.

Margaret joined St John in 1983, was made a member in 1994, so far completing 37 years’ active service, also becoming a Friends of the Emergency Dept (FED) Support Team Leader at Waikato Hospital and a Health Shuttle assistant in 2014, with a few more roles as well! Overall her volunteering for St John represents thousands of hours.

As a member of Kiwiwatch since 2006, she’s been the eyes and ear of the Police, patrolling local streets, sitting in her car on Friday and Saturday evenings and reporting back via a supplied Police radio, often until 2am. She also volunteers for their fundraising activities, prepares the monthly Kiwiwatch roster and has never let her team down, despite the awkward hours. Running the volunteer control centre (DCC) at Hamilton Central Police Station over two and half years has also involved 59 shifts and over 300 hours of her own time.

For six years, her work with the blind bowling associations as a ‘director’ or ‘eyes’ of its playing members also includes other assistance such as overnight hotel stays with competitors for events that run over two days or more.

Warren Turnwald

The two organisations Warren is passionate about are the Anglican Church in the Waikato and Scouts NZ.

Appointed a lay minister in 2003, now-retired Warren has been volunteering his administrative and  financial skills for over 50 years to the Church and continues to do so, to ensure the Waikato Cathedral Church of St Peter in Hamilton runs smoothly. Church officials describe him as “a master of fine detail”. His leadership skills have also come to the fore during this time, through his Cathedral/Vestry and Diocesan roles and though his participation in a variety of formal Cathedral services.

Over this same time period, Warren has made an immense contribution on all levels to the scouting community in New Zealand, including running annual Jamborees over many years and gaining many awards in recognition of this from Scouts NZ. He initiated and set up the first National Venturer Caving School for Scouts NZ (an annual event held at Waitomo) and for 43 years has attended every caving school held (except for during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020).

Appointed a Justice of the Peace in 2008, Warren has immersed himself in that organisation’s activities and roles. He also set up the Waikato Hospital Service Desk on behalf of the Waikato JP Association and he’s its roster coordinator. ScoutNZ says Warren is “one of those extraordinary people who give selflessly to ensure others succeed.”

Roy Wilson

Roy has spent the last 23 years working solely in the Supported Employment field, including project work and research. He has also been contributing to Hamilton and the surrounding Waikato by setting up Career Moves (a supported employment agency) in June 2000.

Roy has been steadfastly working to empower differently abled people to take their place in the workforce, giving many people and their whanau families hope and educating potential employers about the value differently abled people can bring into the workforce.

Roy is an excellent teacher and has trained many up-and-coming employment consultants into successful careers in the Government and support agencies. He facilitated and contributed to the ongoing development of the Diploma of Supported Employment in the Waikato and to getting the Diploma of Employment Support and the Certificate of Employment Support onto the National Framework through Te Kaiawhina Ahumahi.

Roy has been instrumental in the work of Advisors for Supported Employment in New Zealand (ASENZ), and the formation of the New Zealand Disability Support Network (NZDSN). Previously a chair of ASENZ, Roy received their leadership award in 2004 and was acknowledged as an inaugural ‘Sage’ in 2007. He is also a member of the NZDSN Board, receiving their leadership/long service award and in 2014, their excellence in Supported Employment Practice award.

Annie Williams

Annie Williams is a wahine toa caring for Hamilton communities from her humble garage and beyond.

For many years, Annie used to feed her Enderley community from the back of her car – before she realised a better solution would be to have people come to her – and that’s when Annie’s Corner was born. Plenty of volunteers familiar with her earlier efforts signed up to help – some had been her ‘customers’ in the past – and it didn’t take long before the service expanded to cater for the wider community in Hamilton.

Having brought up nine children, Annie knows a thing or two about feeding a crowd. She started out driving around handing out food to strangers, such as homeless people living on the streets. “A lot of those people were my own people,” she says. Then she discovered a Hamilton-based ‘food rescue’ organisation called ‘Kaivolution’, which collects food going to waste and gives it to people in need.

Annie visits Kaivolution every day to gather supplies then puts out the food the next day in her garage from 9am – everything is free. Annie starts each day with a live ‘broadcast’ to her Facebook page, and anyone can help themselves – if they need it, they’re welcome. She’s also helping Kaivolution to save thousands of dollars in wasted food that would otherwise have been tossed out.

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