Culture & Events

Hamilton honours ‘exceptional’ citizens

(left to right) Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor, Professor Bruce Clarkson, Dr Beverley Clarkson, Dr Peter Sergel, Dr Noel Karalus, Leaupepe Elisapeta ('Peta') Karalus, Mayor Paula Southgate, and Cr Martin Gallagher.

Hamilton City has honoured five of its most exceptional citizens by conferring upon them the city’s most prestigious awards.

At a well-attended and moving ceremony this evening internationally renowned scientists, ecologists and conservationists Dr Beverly Clarkson and her husband Professor Bruce Clarkson were both awarded the Hamilton-Kirikiroa Medal.

Alongside them, former Hamilton Gardens director Dr Peter Sergel was similarly honoured. Dr Sergel received the medal in recognition for his development of the Hamilton Gardens, as well as other projects in the city.

Tonight’s ceremony was made even more significant by the further conferring of two rare Freedom of the City Awards.

Well-known Hamilton-based respiratory specialist Dr Noel Karalus alongside his wife and prominent Pasifika leader and champion Elisapeta (Peta) Karalus were both presented with Hamilton City Council’s Freedom Holder of the City Award.

Mayor Paula Southgate, who presented the awards alongside Deputy Mayor Geoff Taylor and long-serving Councillor Martin Gallagher said the event was “quite extraordinary”.

“For a range of reasons, including Covid-19, the city has been unable to properly honour these exceptional individuals until now. So to have five wonderful Hamiltonians in the room, along with their friends and family, and to see their achievements recognised and honoured was very, very special.”

Southgate said Hamilton had been privileged to have Beverley and Bruce Clarkson “at our sides, guiding conservation initiatives and projects for the city and beyond”.

“I have been incredibly lucky to know Beverley and Bruce for many years and to see first-hand their extraordinary efforts on behalf of our environment. The work they have done on projects like Waiwhakareke Natural Heritage Park, on our wetlands and on bringing nature to people in our city will benefit our children, our grandchildren and beyond.”

Dr Peter Sergel’s work had already delighted millions of people and would go on to delight millions more, she said.

“Peter is possibly best well-known for his vision, drive and tenacity which delivered the world-class Hamilton Gardens to our city. The Gardens will be an astonishing legacy for him, but they will not be his only legacy,” she said.

“Peter has been involved in many, many other projects on behalf or our city and I was thrilled to present him with his medal tonight.”

“Finally, to stand alongside Noel and Peta once again, and this time honour them for their important work over many years to improve people’s health was quite emotional because I understand their journey. While all our recipients remain incredibly humble, it was wonderful to see them formally recognised by our city.”

Councillor Martin Gallagher, who chaired the City Honours Assessment Panel, noted the “staggering achievements” of all five recipients. While each worked in different fields, all five were deeply respected and all had made an immeasurable contribution to Hamilton, he said.

“I have had the privilege of knowing all of them. But I know Noel and Peta particularly well as a city councillor, as a Member of Parliament and as a former board member of the Waikato District Health Board,” he said.

“It has been a privilege over many years to witness and applaud their passionate commitment to the wellbeing of our Pasifika community and beyond. They are both unrelenting in their dedication to achieving better health outcomes for our community and they are both worthy holders of the Freedom of the City. I am thrilled for them,” he said.

“We have talented, motivated and highly respected people in our city doing incredible work and they deserve to be recognised so we can all applaud and appreciate their achievements.”

Southgate noted only six people had been awarded the Hamilton-Kiririroa Medal. Philanthropist and city identity John Gallagher was the first recipient in 2014. Bunny Mortimer and John Mortimer who founded and gifted the Taitua Aboretum to the city, were honoured in 2020. John Mortimer, who died in 2018, was honoured posthumously. Bunny Mortimer died in 2021.

The last person to be presented with the Freedom of the City was Peter Bos in 2019, who became the 26th recipient of the prestigious civic honour, bestowed upon individuals for their lifetime.  Current Freedom Holders of the City are:

  • Peter Bos                            (2019)
  • Karen Morrison-Hume     (2018)​
  • Russ Rimmington              (2018)
  • Gordon Chesterman        (2016)
  • Kiingi ​Tuheitia                    (2016)
  • David Sidwell                     (2014)
  • Pippa Mahood                   (2013)
  • Sir William Gallagher       (2008)
  • John Gallagher                 (2008)
  • Ted Armstrong                  (2005)
  • Dame Malvina Major        (2001)​
  • Margaret Evans                 (1998)
  • Lady Rhyl Jansen              (1989)


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