Official recognition . . . Mayor Gary Kircher (back row, left) poses with this year's recipients of Waitaki District Council Citizens' Awards: (back row, from left) Beryl Aker, Ross Babington, Bruce Comfort, Wayne Fisher-Hewitt, (front, from left) Janice Hayes, Joy Rusbatch, June Cameron, Elaine Bishop and Lois Sweet. Absent: Cecilia Baxter. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Ten top people have been honoured for their community work.
Waitaki District Council Citizens’ Awards were presented on Monday to Beryl Aker, Ross Babington, Cecilia Baxter, Elaine Bishop, Lois Sweet, June Cameron, Bruce Comfort, Wayne Fisher-Hewitt, Janice Hayes and Joy Rusbatch.

Mrs Aker has been a Scouts mainstay for decades, firstly at the St Patrick’s troop and then at Sea Scouts. She rose to leadership positions in both and attended jamborees and national regattas. Nine years ago, Mrs Aker received the Silver Tiki – the second-highest award for services to Scouting. She has raised funds through ventures including cooking for the Goldfields Cavalcade for 20 years and for Relay for Life.

Mr Babington was a pioneer of protecting yellow-eyed and blue penguins before Oamaru became known for them. As the founding chairman of the Forest & Bird Waitaki branch, he donated his time to field trips, working bees and projects to enhance the environment.
In recent years he has spent endless hours growing plants at the community nursery and planting and tending them around Cape Wanbrow, Fenwick Park and Lookout Point.

Mrs Baxter came to New Zealand from the Philippines when she married her late husband. Already active in the local Filipino community, she joined the Waitaki Multicultural Council in 2010 and has been its chairwoman since 2011. Mrs Baxter has been involved with Race Relations dinners, concerts at the Oamaru Opera House, potluck dinners and cultural entertainment. She received a Merit Award of Service to the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils this year.

Sisters Elaine Bishop and Lois Sweet were “well known as a double-act assisting police and other agencies”, their citation said. The former Aucklanders have spent much of the past 30 years volunteering in this district, from running Meals on Wheels services to Victim Support. They have trained to help in homicide and suicide situations and given practical support to people in stress. Both have also been regular panellists for restorative justice and can accompany people under 17 during police questioning. Now in their 70s, they are determined to keep helping vulnerable people as long as they can.

Mrs Cameron is one of Oamaru’s most treasured musicians. She learned to play the piano as a child and began teaching it in 1968, amassing 50 pupils at one stage. Mrs Cameron has supported performers of all ages by accompanying countless music and dance exams. She has played for school and adult choirs, dance evenings, weddings, funerals and Anzac Day services, and conducted the St Paul’s choir for the Praise Be television series.

Mr Fisher-Hewitt made a colossal contribution to the two Portside Punch boxing contests that raised thousands of dollars for North Otago Hospice. He was “a mentor, adviser, motivator, trainer and father figure to all the participants”, his citation said. He donated four months of his own time before each event.
He has previously fostered children and is always available to help troubled people to learn vital life skills.

Mr Comfort has not been idle since arriving in Oamaru 13 years ago. The retired engineer has researched and recorded unique historic structures including the breakwater, Meeks Elevator Building, lime kilns, war memorials, electricity generation infrastructure and the Oamaru Borough water race. He is now restoring a Pelton wheel turbine.
Mr Comfort enjoys publicising our forebears’ innovations and reporting them to Heritage NZ.

Mrs Hayes is best-known throughout the district as a bagpiper. She has been a member of the North Otago Highland Pipe Band for nearly 50 years and in 1999 became its first female life member. Mrs Hayes has played at contests and displays across the South Island, attained B grade as a solo piper, and for 45 years has accompanied Highland dancing competitions.
She has been chief of the North Otago Scottish Society and is now a life member.

Mrs Rusbatch is a long-serving member of St John, receiving the Venerable Order of St John way back in 1984. Her work for the North Otago branch of the Heart Foundation earned an Award of Merit in 2009, and her presidency of the RSA Women’s Section was acknowledged with a service award in 2013.
Mrs Rusbatch also volunteered for Red Cross, still helps out at Iona, and gives home baking to many people.Nike sneakersSneakers Nike