News | 20 October 2020
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Diversity the winner at the awards

What do the Director-General of Health, a former Deputy Mayor, a drag king, a wahine toa, and an interfaith council leader have in common? They’re all recipients of the 2020 Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian (APW) awards.

Image of the 2020 Absolutely Positively Wellington winners at award ceremony
2020 Absolutely Positively Wellington winners

Fifteen recipients of the award were celebrated last night at an event acknowledging their commitment and contribution to making a difference in the community, the city, and the country.

These awards are a small way of thanking Wellingtonians who make a huge contribution, usually voluntarily, to our people, our environment and our community, says Mayor Andy Foster.

“These winners come from a diverse range of cultures, demographics, and backgrounds, some are well known internationally, some just in their neighbourhood, but all provide an invaluable service to our community as a whole.

“While these awards usually acknowledge the charitable and voluntary contributions of Wellingtonians, it was also a great honour for me to give this award to Dr Ashley Bloomfield for his outstanding leadership role in the country’s COVID-19 health response,” adds the Mayor.

The winners’ contributions to the community ranged from promoting and facilitating Tikanga Māori and rangatahi kapa haka, to 40 years of service at Youthline Wellington, a couple who together have dedicated over 50 years as Scout Leaders helping develop many hundreds of young people through scouting, and a charity which provides donated and second-hand bikes to people from a refugee background.

Arts, Culture and Events portfolio lead, and Wellington International Pride Parade board member, Councillor Nicola Young is also pleased to see a significant number of LGBTQI+ community individuals acknowledged this year.

“The 2020 Wellington International Pride Parade attracted an estimated crowd of 50,000, so it is with mixed emotions we celebrate co-chair Richard Tait who is retiring from the board this year.

“This award acknowledges and thanks Richard for putting our city’s LGBTQI+ community into a warm and friendly spotlight, after all, Wellington is a place for everyone in the alphabet.”

Other members of the queer community recognised at the awards include cabaret producer George Fowler and his alter-ego, drag king Hugo Grrrl, and Des Smith, a staunch advocate for gay rights, who with his husband John were the first couple in New Zealand to have a civil union just days after the Act came into effect.

The APW awards were presented and celebrated during a ceremony held at the City Gallery last night (Wednesday 21 October 2020).

The full list of APW 2020 recipients are:

Bill and Donas Nathan (joint)

For more than fifty years Bill and Donas have been pillars of Ngati Poneke, Aotearoa’s oldest kapa haka group. They have led the organisations cultural activities, inspired and taught thousands of our young people traditional Māori song and dance, and have nurtured a wider and greater understanding of Tikanga Māori.

Brian Sheppard

Brian is an icon of Churton Park and the northern suburbs and has been an active volunteer and advocate for his community since 2014. As President of the Churton Park Community Association he has been the lead figure in the organisation of many iconic events.

Christine Langdon

Christine is a Wellington local and founder of The Good Registry, a social giving platform where people can make donations to Wellington and nationwide charities instead of traditional gifts.

David Zwartz

David has contributed an immense amount of time and effort to the Jewish Community since the 1980’s. He was a co-founder of the Wellington Interfaith Council, and volunteered for the Holocaust Centre, the Regional Jewish Council, Wellington’s Interfaith Council, and the Downtown Community Mission (DCM).

Desmond Smith

Des is described as the glue that binds his neighbourhood of Ngaio. He’s also been responsible for the planting of hundreds of trees in the area and is a well-known tour guide at Zealandia. He and his husband John established the Civil Union Bill Support Society and played a key role in supporting the passage of the Civil Union Act 2004. They were the first couple in New Zealand to have a civil union.

Dr Ashley Robin Bloomfield

Dr Bloomfield is the Director-General of Health and the Chief Executive of the Ministry of Health. He is a recipient of this award for his outstanding leadership, his reassuring advice and the role he has played in helping to lead New Zealand’s extremely successful COVID-19 health response to date.

George Fowler/Hugo Grrrl

George (and his alter-ego, drag king Hugo Grrrl), is a comedy and cabaret producer, and founder of local alternative arts events company Hugo Grrrl’s Gigs. He leads a team of queer creatives and event producers to bring Wellington an incredible array of live theatre - from drag to comedy, from burlesque to poetry.

Hilleke and Mike Townsend (joint)

Hilleke and Mike founded the charity ReBicycle EkeRua which provides donated and second-hand bikes to refugees and people in need. It also helps refugee women learn cycle skills and provides them with a transport method that is accessible and environmentally friendly.

Lena Meinders

Lena Meinders has been described as ‘wahine toa’ who is passionate about preserving and promoting Māori tikanga, kawa, waiata and te reo.

Lena is Deputy Principal at Newlands Intermediate and Chair of the Ngā Hau e Whā o Paparārangi Marae. A member of the Marae for more than fifteen years, she facilitates the local rangatahi kapa haka group which has seen its membership grow to more than thirty students.

Ian McKinnon

Ian has had a long and varied career in education and public service, including being Deputy Headmaster at Eton College in Britain, Headmaster of Wanganui Collegiate School and here in Wellington as Headmaster at Scots College.

He has served as Pro-Chancellor or Chancellor on the Council of Victoria University of Wellington, been a Wellington City Councillor and Deputy Mayor, and a Greater Wellington Regional Councillor.

Meriann Betham

In 2020, Meriann celebrated forty years of service at Youthline Wellington supporting the young people of Wellington.

Mike Mellor

Mike is one of the foundation members of Walk Wellington, an advocacy group that went on to become Living Streets Aotearoa, which focuses on improving conditions for walkers and creating a more liveable urban environment.

Mike was the Environmental Sustainability Representative on the Wellington Regional Land Transport Committee for six years and is currently a member of the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Public Transport Advisory Group.

Patricia Given

Patricia is well-known in the Wellington Volunteer Community. She has been involved for many years with Wellington Irish, the Mt Vic Hub, Innermost Gardens and more than a dozen other community groups focusing on pest eradication, neighbourhood connections and cycle advocacy.

Richard Hawke and Carole Willson

Richard first became a Scout Leader in 1990. Since 1998 Carole and Richard have been Scout Leaders at 1st Karori Scout Group, and – in addition – since 2000 they have also run 1st Karori Venturer Unit.

Richard Tait

Richard Tait is retiring as the co-chair of the Wellington International Pride Parade, having organised the past two parades with the assistance of its board.