This is the third time the Oamaru Mail has named its Waitakians of the Year. That must make it a tradition. There are no trophies, no certificates, no hefty cheques – just a nod from us to them to say “well done”. We haven’t even told these fine folk they are getting this honour. They are finding out at the same time as you. Outgoing editor Hayden Meikle pays tribute to six of the best.
Georgie Salter Netball immortal
We again choose to include one posthumous honouree among our Waitakians of the Year. In 2016, it was legendary pilot John Oakes, and last year, it was beloved Palmerston cop Stefan Witehira. The great – the TRULY great – Georgie Salter certainly belongs on this list.
She was so special, and she will never be forgotten.
Sally-Ann Donnelly The queen of Oamaru
She hates being called the queen – HATES it – but tell me who has come up with a better way to describe this remarkable woman.Sally-Ann Donnelly is special. I love her, you love her, we all love her.
She is an extraordinarily generous, clever, warm, supportive, brilliant, funny woman, and this town is so lucky to call her its own.
It would be easy to include her in our Waitakians of the Year feature on an annual basis for everything she does for the community.
This year, it’s especially easy. She led the organisation of the second Portside Punch charity boxing event that raised $125,000 for cancer charities. Bravo.
Mike Sandri The running man
Mike Sandri had a dream.
The keen runner had competed in staged ultra races overseas, and he wondered if something could work in New Zealand – heck, even in his home region.
Two years in the planning, the Alps 2 Ocean Ultra was held for the first time in February, and more than 100 runners from 16 countries pounded their way along the 316km trail from Aoraki Mt Cook to Oamaru.
Part sporting event, part tourism opportunity, the event raised a staggering $270,000, money which will be distributed to the community.
Mike didn’t do it alone – a team of supporters and sponsors contributed – but he was the face of an exciting new event in the Waitaki calendar.
Duncan Drew Cricketing legend
Not much more we can say about Dunc – we had a big yarn on him after he confirmed his retirement just a few weeks ago.
But this is one final chance to salute a genuine North Otago sporting great.
He wasn’t flashy and he didn’t seek the limelight, but he fashioned an immense record of consistency and loyalty over quarter of a century.
While he remains a key figure in North Otago cricket as the overall controller of the Hawke Cup squad, his on-field presence will be sorely missed.
Hana Halalele Pasifika powerhouse
This is one busy woman.
Hana Halalele is best known to the wider public as the president of the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group, and a long-serving probation officer for the Department of Corrections.
But wait, there’s lots more.
The New Zealand-born Samoan is the secretary of the Oamaru Pacific Island Network and a member of the Southern DHB’s Community Health Council, and has been involved with the Oamaru North School Board of Trustees, the Waitaki Safer Community Trust, and St Paul’s Otepoti Presbyterian Church. AND she is a wife and mother.
Hana has a passion for various fields – including mental health and youth affairs – but her main drive is to break down barriers for Pasifika people.
The “browning” of Oamaru has led to a cultural revolution, and the town is a better place for it. But as Hana’s quote of the year – “We’re not just here to dance on the stage” – brilliantly describes, more needs to be done to make our Pasifika community feel at home.
Carol Berry Literary advocate
What were you doing 15 years ago?
Carol Berry was, among other things, becoming the first person to head the Janet Frame Eden Street Trust.
Remarkably, she held that position – running the house at 56 Eden St, where author Janet Frame lived as a child – continuously until stepping down this year.
Janet Frame House is a treasure, and that is not a bad word to describe the woman who has done so much to boost its profile.
Carol was “wheely” (groan) busy this year.
She was also chairwoman of the Phoenix Mill Restoration trust, and was on hand as the restored and installed water wheel was handed back to the community.