Community volunteers recognised



8 June 2017

Six local volunteers were recognised for their ongoing dedication to the Rotorua community at the Rotorua Lakes Council Community Awards this evening.

Wētini Mītai-Ngatai, Clare Beuth, Manu Solomon, Gabrielle Thurston, Bronwen Radford and Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan received awards this year at a special ceremony at Council’s Civic Centre.

The annual council awards were held alongside the annual Trustpower Community Awards.

The recipients were acknowledged for devoting at least 15 years of voluntary service to one or more community sectors, or having made a significant difference in a particular field.

Rotorua Acting Mayor Dave Donaldson says there are many volunteers in our community who do great work for the benefit of others but do not look for praise or rewards.

“They just want to contribute to their communities in a meaningful way. One small way the community can acknowledge their efforts is through awards like the Rotorua Lakes Council Community Awards and the Trustpower Rotorua Lakes Community Awards.

“I congratulate all of those who have been recognised this year and thank them and the many others in our community for their outstanding contribution to making our district a better place.”

The annual Rotorua Lakes Council Community Awards, which were launched in 1990, reognse the work of individuals in the community while the Trustpower awards focus on organisations or groups.

Rotorua Museum’s volunteer guides have been named Supreme Award winner of this years Trustpower Awards for their continued efforts to tell the stories of Rotorua and its history from outside the walls of the Rotorua Museum.

The volunteers sprung to action only hours after the decision was made to close the Museum building last November and have since provided free guided tours to more than 1500 visitors.

Click here to view photos from the awards evening

About the Rotorua Lakes Council Community Award winners:

Wētini Mītai-Ngatai

Wētini is a staunch family man, a smart business man and the creative power behind the kapa Te Mātārae Orehu.

He was gifted the reigns to the kapa in October 1994 by his mentor the late Te Irirangi Tiakiawa.

23 years later, Wētini has revolutionised the world of kapa haka through his passion for our traditional arts and has kept true to the vision of his mentor, Te Irirangi Tiakiawa.

Wētini has collected the Te Matatini Manukura Kaitataki Tane (Best overall male leader) award six times.

He has received the Laureate Award in 2015, one of the country’s top arts awards for recognition of his work as a cultural entrepreneur and kapa haka expert.

The depth of knowledge he possesses and willingly shares is limitless but his greatest message is to maintain aroha in everything that we do and remain humble at all times.


Francisca Hawkes-Buchanan

This energetic 86 year old woman, on her yellow scooter, can be seen buzzing around Rotorua doing good deeds.

She helps out at the Red Cross Shop where she often sources helpful items for the Kiwi Coffin Club.

Francisca visits RSA members when they are in hospital and takes magazines and other goodies to give cheer and show love to these sick people.

She has been a member of the Kiwi Coffin Club for many years and helps wherever she is needed.

Clare Beuth

Clare has been an outstanding volunteer in the Mamaku community for at least 15 years through her commitment to the Mamaku Play Centre and Mamaku School.

She has been an important part of the Mamuku School sports committee for numerous years offering support and taking on different roles.

Clare undertook the task of organising the ‘Mamaku Marsupial Marathon – Possum Hunt’ which over the years has paid for uniforms and trophies, subsidised registration fees and secured a turfed court with a cover built over it for all year round use.

Clare has also helped out with other school activities such as discos, school productions, the Lamb and Calf Day and is also a voluntary librarian.

The children of Mamaku would not have the opportunities they have if it wasn’t for Clare.  She has been a fantastic role model and always has a smile on her face with ‘Kia ora’ as she welcomes new people on board.

Gabrielle Thurston

Gabrielle is the Chairperson of Speech New Zealand, a Speech New Zealand trustee and a senior examiner. 

She has given tirelessly of her time to promote and enhance the development of oral communication, speech and drama and theatre in New Zealand.

Gabrielle’s impact in the community is shown in the lives of the hundreds of students she has taught over the years.

Under her guidance numerous John Paul College drama students have been selected for the prestigious national Shakespeare team that tours the UK and performs on the stage of the Globe Theatre in London.

Drama students taught by Gabrielle who have gone on to forge professional careers in the theatre and film industry both in NZ and overseas include Cian Elyse White and Taofia Tauoliili-Pelesasa.

Bronwen Radford

Bronwen has had well over twenty years involvement in swimming and has had a remarkable level of volunteer and personal commitment to the sport in the Rotorua community, the Bay of Plenty region and at the national level.

Recently she was the catalyst to a joint bid [between Swimming BOP and the Rotorua Aquatic Centre], being developed and submitted to Swimming New Zealand to host two significant swimming meets. 

The bids were successful and both events ran extremely well.  Brownwen worked tirelessly during these seven full days of swimming, often being the first to arrive to set up and the last to leave.

Bronwen is the current President of Swimming Bay of Plenty and has been since 2010.

She is a coach with Swim Rotorua and has been since the club was formed in 2012 (being with predecessor clubs before that).

Bronwen is also the mother of 2016 Rio Olympic open water (10km) swimmer Kane Radford.


Manu Soloman

Manu has given outstanding service to Rotorua through sport in a variety of ways since 1994.

She first got involved as a coach when following and supporting her children’s sport.  She has coached basketball at Selwyn Primary, Kaitao Intermediate and Western Heights High School; and also a number of representative teams.

Manu has also been involved with rugby through the years from 1994 - 2001, taking on the role of Manager/Assistant for Western Heights High 1st XV Boys team and representative teams.

She also served on the Rotorua Basketball Association Committee, the Rotorua Secondary Schools Basketball Committee, Rotorua Mini ball League Committee and the Baywide Basketball Committee.

Manu was also a good player herself in basketball, netball, volleyball and softball. 

It is people like Manu, who have a lifelong passion for sport and work tirelessly behind the scenes, who make all the difference in our community.



Rotorua Museum Outside the Walls Walking Tour Guides has won the Supreme Award at the 2017 Trustpower Rotorua Lakes Community Awards.

The Trustpower Rotorua Lakes Community Awards were announced and presented tonight (Thursday 8 June), alongside the Rotorua Lakes Council Community Awards at a function at the Rotorua Lakes Council Chamber.

For winning the Supreme Award, Rotorua Museum Outside the Walls Walking Tour Guides received a framed certificate, a trophy and $1,500 prize money.  Rotorua Museum Outside the Walls Walking Tour Guides now has the opportunity to represent the district at the 2017 Trustpower National Community Awards, which are being held in the Queenstown Lakes District in April 2018.

In total, Trustpower has given away over $5,000 to various community groups through tonight’s Awards.

Rotorua Acting Mayor Dave Donaldson says the unexpected closure of Rotorua Museum was a shock to all but staff and the museum’s volunteers have taken it in their stride and been determined to continue providing services to the community and our many visitors.

“They’ve looked beyond the walls of the museum building and provided, among other things, these historical tours which were extremely popular with both locals and tourists. It’s a great innovation which means we’ve been able to continue sharing our proud local history with our dedicated volunteers taking the lead.

“This award is very well deserved and is a small way to acknowledge their contribution to our community.

“I’d like to take the opportunity to thank all of the volunteers who were acknowledged in the Trustpower and Rotorua Lakes Council community awards as well as all the other volunteers doing great work in our community.”

Rotorua Museum Outside the Walls Walking Tour Guides also won the Heritage and Environment category at tonight’s awards.

Other winners at tonight’s Trustpower Rotorua Lakes Community Awards and the Rotorua Lakes Council Community Awards were:


Youth Spirit

Finalist: Matthew Gatenby, Rotorua Lakes High School

Finalist: Nathan Kenah, Rotoura Boys High School

Winner: Georgia Williams, John Paul College


Heritage and Environment

Runner up: Te Amorangi Trust Museum Inc.

Winner: Rotorua Museum Outside the Walls Walking Tour Guides


Health and Wellbeing

Commendation: BayTrust Rescue Helicopter

Commendation: Rotorua Community Kai

Runner Up: St John Health Shuttle

Winner: Dress for Success Rotorua Charitable Trust


Arts and Culture

Runner up: Rotorua Yarnbombers

Winner: The Arts Village Rotorua


Sports and Leisure

Commendation: Netball Rotorua

Runner up: Rotorua Mountain Bike Club Inc.

Winner: Swim Rotorua


Education and Child/Youth Development

Runner up: Kimiora Community Trust

Winner: Mamaku Home and School Committee


Supreme Winner: Rotorua Museum Outside the Walls Walking Tour Guides


Page reviewed: 08 Jun 2017 8:00pm