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The Waitaki district is full of hardworking people, dedicated to making a difference in their communities.

And as we count down to Christmas, it is a great time to shine the spotlight on some of those people.

When I took over as Oamaru Mail editor in January, my predecessor, Hayden Meikle, encouraged me to make the newspaper my own. Put my stamp on it.

But there was one tradition he hoped I would continue – Waitakian of the Year.

Hayden started the tradition in 2016 as an informal, unofficial way for the newspaper to highlight and celebrate some of the best people in “New Zealand’s finest district”.

It has continued each year since then and has become something a bit special.

There are no trophies, no certificates, no hefty cheques – just a nod from us to them to say “well done” and “thanks”. We don’t even tell them they are getting the honour. They find out at the same time as you.

The inaugural Waitakians of the Year were Kevin Malcolm, Carly Laughton, Francois Mostert, Clive Rennie, Jill McDonald and John Oakes. In 2017, Stefan Witehira, Anne Wilkinson, Harry Andrew, Sandra Tonkin and Adair Craik were honoured and last year we celebrated Sally-Ann Donnelly, Mike Sandri, Duncan Drew, Carol Berry, Georgie Salter and Hana Halalele.

We have made a (long) shortlist for the 2019 Waitakians of the Year – but I’d love suggestions from readers.

It could be somebody well known, but equally it could be someone working away under the radar, whose efforts, compassion and time provide a significant contribution to their community.

If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Email me at rebecca.ryan@oamarumail.co.nz or call me on (03) 433-0535.