Honouring our community advocates

Published on 10 June 2021

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While we all relish an extra day of rest and relaxation with friends and whanau, the Queen’s Birthday long weekend is also when the nation acknowledges the outstanding contributions New Zealanders make to our communities. This year, the Queen’s birthday will never be quite the same for four of our Far North residents and I want to acknowledge and congratulate Murray Bain, Ian Leigh-MacKenzie, Noma Shepherd and Maxine Shortland.

Our region is known for having the highest rate of volunteering in New Zealand with over a third of Northland adults working in their communities every week. These are parents who coach kids’ football, neighbours who help at the charity shop, workmates who drive ambulances or race out the door when the fire station siren sounds. Our communities would be much poorer without these volunteers. That’s why it is such a pleasure to see them named in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

I was particularly gratified to learn that Kawakawa resident, Noma Shepherd, was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community. We probably wouldn’t have Kawakawa’s wonderful Te Hononga Hundertwasser Memorial Park building and library without Noma’s efforts over many years. The building was opened by the Prime Minister in 2020, but completing the project has not slowed Noma down. She is still heavily involved with several community organisations in Kawakawa.

Another Kawakawa resident, Maxine Shortland was named a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to netball and governance. Maxine has 40 years of experience in netball as a player, manager, coach, administrator, and parent netball convenor. She is also a director of Netball New Zealand. It’s not only about netball; Maxine is involved in a range of community organisations, and sits on health, conservation, and funding boards.

Kerikeri resident Murray Bain was named an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to tertiary education and digital learning. Murray was chair of Open Polytechnic of New Zealand’s Governing Council until 2020 and helped ensure equitable access for Māori in online learning. His work proved invaluable during the COVID-19 lockdown when educational organisations looked to Open Polytechnic to help support digital learning initiatives.

Ian Leigh-MacKenzie will be known to many residents and visitors to Hokianga. The former policeman and publican is now owner of the very popular Ōpononi takeaways. A long-standing member and chairman of the Pākanae Water Board, Ian worked hard to extend reticulated water supplies to households and a marae in the Hokianga. He was also instrumental in repairing Ōpononi’s iconic statue of Opo the dolphin. He has contributed to numerous Hokianga committees, clubs and associations. Ian received a Queen’s Service Medal for his services to the community.

We all want to make the Far North a great place to live and work in. That requires the active support of our community. Those honoured last weekend demonstrate the great outcomes that individuals can achieve. They are our people and they make us all proud.