As far as volunteers go, you will not find many as enthusiastic as Oamaru man Gordon Martin.
The sprightly 86-year-old is a regular fixture at the Waitaki Community Gardens, where he can be spotted digging, weeding, pruning and planting most days, while he also volunteers for the local branch of Riding for the Disabled.
Add in the fact he has been a member of the Rotary Club of Oamaru for more than 50 years and you can begin to form an idea of Mr Martin’s commitment to the community in which he has lived for most of his life.
He said his volunteer work started when he became a Rotarian more than five decades ago.
“It would have been right back when I first joined Rotary 53 years ago. When I joined, there were a lot of projects that were done by volunteers. One I really remember was Rotary had the idea of beautifying the entrance to Oamaru and they planted all of those trees out at Pukeuri – that was the start of it.”
Another project he recalled fondly was one when he was based in Wanaka from 1986 to 2011.
In 1994, the Rotary Club of Wanaka, specifically Mr Martin, was enlisted by Telecom, now know as Spark, to help produce a series of phone cards that depicted aircraft as part of a collectable series.
The cards were sold for $5 each and eventually netted Rotary more than $100,000.
During his time with Rotary, he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow and blue sapphire pennant, both for long-time contribution to the service organisation.
While proud of those awards, he said being nominated for the New Zealand senior of the year at this year’s New Zealander of the Year Awards was “the ultimate”, even though he was not a finalist.
He said he had no idea he had been nominated by Gloria Hurst, Sophia Leon de la Barra and Ra McRostie, all of the Waitaki Community Gardens.
“I didn’t know about it. I didn’t find out about it until I got this invite to a black-tie dinner in Auckland. My first thought was, ‘Someone’s having me on here’.
“My certificate was presented by [former prime minister] Jim Bolger and when he presented it, he said, ‘What do you do in your spare time, Gordon?’ I wasn’t able to answer him.”
Mr Martin said the reason he wanted to do volunteer work in the first place was to continue to make connections with people, as he had done throughout his working career which involved spells with the postal service, a grocery store and camping grounds.
He was also a justice of the peace for 38 years.