Community Heroes Recognised

29 August 2018

When Suzy and Jamie Allen lost their eldest daughter, Carrie, to cancer when she was just 12, they did they only thing they knew how – they turned their grief into action, sold their house and built Taranaki Retreat, a space for those facing extreme stress, struggling with mental illness, or having suicidal thoughts.

Last night (29th August), the Allens were two of the 12 community members awarded a New Plymouth District Council’s Citizens’ Award, recognising them for their significant contributions to the district. Collectively, this year’s recipients have decades of volunteering experience across a range of sectors, including sport, education, local government, civil defence, emergency response and health and well-being. 

The Awards, now in their 39th year, are an annual event inviting nominations from right across the District. This year’s recipients came from Waitara, New Plymouth and Inglewood and all were nominated by others from within their own communities. 

“One thing we know about our district is that it is filled with volunteers who freely and selflessly give their time and energy to the community,” says Mayor Neil Holdom. “The Citizens’ Awards are a chance for our communities to recognise and acknowledge their own community heroes – the doers; the behind-the-scenes people who make things happen. There are many community heroes out there and the recipients of this year’s Awards are 12 of our District’s best. I couldn’t be more delighted and proud to recognise such a special group of people from within our community.”
The recipients of the New Plymouth District Citizens’ Awards for 2018 are: 

  1. Suzy and Jamie Allen have spent the last four years creating Taranaki Retreat – a community sanctuary and place of healing for those facing extreme stress, struggling with mental illness, or having suicidal thoughts.
  2. Lynn Bublitz has lived a life of service in the community, with more than 30 years’ volunteering spanning local government, arts, education and community organisations. Lynn was awarded a Queen’s Service Order in 2008. 
  3. Alison Cole is current president of the Fitzroy Surf Lifesaving Club, and has been a committee member, club member and lifeguard for the last 23 years. She is also the current club secretary and past president of the Waitara Kayak Club.
  4. Grant Downes has been an active member of the New Plymouth Fire Brigade’s Operational Support Team for the last 36 years, and is currently the Senior Station Officer and Team Leader – a role he’s held for 23 years.  
  5. Faye Dravitzki has been a volunteer at New Plymouth Riding for the Disabled for the past 15 years, a volunteer at St Patrick’s School Pony Club in Inglewood, and a committee member and twice President of local Lions clubs for the last 22 years.
  6. Bruce Findlay was the founding Chairman of the Taranaki Air Ambulance Trust, and has been Trust Chair for 10 of the last 12 years. He was also a member, vice president and president of the New Plymouth Aero Club.
  7. Karen Gillum-Green has spent the last 30 years as coach, manager and president of TET Athletics Taranaki and Egmont Athletics. She is also a current committee member of the TET Stadium Trust, New Zealand Masters Athletics and Taranaki Masters Athletics. 
  8. Jean Hastie has been a member of the New Plymouth Stroke Support Trust team for the last 15 years, a volunteer with the TSB Showplace’s host team since 2006 and at the Jean Sandel Retirement Village since 2014. She was also a past volunteer at both ASCOT @ Temaru and Hospice Taranaki.
  9. David Leask has been involved in civil defence for the last 35 years. He also gave more than 13 years’ service to the Taranaki Scouting movement, plays active role in the Anglican Parish of St Chad and volunteers at the Marfell School breakfast club.
  10. Erica Perry was born with Millers Syndrome, a rare genetic condition, and has been delivering speeches to local school students and other sufferers and their families since 2014. In 2018, she completed her first ever two-person team relay half marathon.
  11. Elise Smith was a founding member of the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society, Project Manager for the Pukekura Park Portal Project, and is also a member of both the Friends of Pukekura Park Trust and the Taranaki Kiwi Trust.
Citizen Awards 2018