12 local legends celebrated by NPDC and region at large

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A revered historian, tikanga and cultural adviser; a legend of dance, a mental health advocate and numerous community stalwarts and volunteers are among a group of local legends recognised with a NPDC Citizens’ Award.


The 12 recipients were announced at an event hosted by New Plymouth District Mayor Neil Holdom last night, recognising the contributions some of our residents make to the district.


Established in 1979, the annual awards recognise the contributions of residents in our district. Nominated by members of the public, recipients are then selected by the Mayor and Councillors. 


“These local legends have made a tremendous difference helping others and improving the lives of many around them in the New Plymouth District,” says Mayor Holdom.


“They are the ones who do the hard yards and often quietly go above and beyond to make a difference to this awesome place we call home. A huge thank you to everyone for their hard work and dedication to our District.”


Holdom also thanked those who took time to nominate people for the awards.


The 2023 Citizens’ Award recipients are:


Kerry Austin
Kerry (or “Doc”) is a long-time supporter of many Inglewood community projects, including the Taranaki Community Stadium Trust, the TET Stadium, the Lions Mini Putt and Inglewood United RFC.


Val Deakin
Dance legend Val Deakin counts some of New Zealand’s dance stars among thousands of former students and has been a champion for the environment and women’s rights.


Hoani Eriwata
Educator, historian, tikanga and cultural adviser Hoani has been a key figure at iwi, hapū, corporate, local government, community and school events across North Taranaki.


Neil Evetts
Neil has brought his compassion, leadership and organisation skills to a range of projects and groups in sport, education and other fields.


Lynn Fitzsimmons
As one of the Taranaki Volunteer Coastguard team, Lynn has been one of the unsung heroes of many sea rescues, either on the water or in the background.


Gordon Hudson 
Gordon has been a staunch advocate of mental health services and support for decades and a distinguished volunteer for a long list of organisations and served them with distinction.


Mark Leuthard
Mark is synonymous with the success of the New Plymouth Operatic Society, contributing both on and off stage, and has helped bring the Christmas at the Bowl show to the Bowl of Brooklands.


Robert McGregor
Rob’s work has helped shape Taranaki’s great outdoors lifestyle for decades from building huts and tracks to helping control predators.


Kevin Nielsen
Kevin loves a challenge, especially when it benefits the community, and he’s helped support those living with disabilities through New Plymouth Riding for the Disabled and other groups.


Elaine Schreiber
Piano teacher Elaine Schreiber is still going strong at 81 and she plays for the enjoyment of it with choirs, churches and rest homes and other events.


Hone Tipene
Hone Tipene started the Tuarā Group of civil construction companies with the kaupapa of reconnecting Māori with their mana motuhake and Māoritanga and to provide young Māori with the pūkenga (skills) to grow and flourish.


Nigel Williams
Nigel Williams has been bringing smiles to children across Taranaki for more than two decades with Variety – The Children’s Charity and helping with the transport for community and sports groups.


Caption: From left, back row: Lieutenant Murray Christensen, Lynn Fitzsimmons, Mark Leuthard, Kerry Austin, New Plymouth District Mayor Neil Holdom, Kevin Nielsen, Nigel Williams and Major Michael Fabish.  Front: Neil Evetts, Hoani Eriwata, Hone Tipene, Elaine Schreiber, Val Deakin, Gordon Hudson and Angela McGregor on behalf of Robert McGregor.