News | 29 September 2023
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Absolutely Positively Wellington Awards recognise the heroes of Pōneke

Not all heroes wear capes, and they often fly under the radar, but their out of this world mahi was honoured last night at the Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Awards.

APW winners and elected members on stage at end of ceremony at Tākina.

The annual event is Wellington City Council’s opportunity to recognise and celebrate an outstanding contribution or on-going service that benefits our community, supports diversity, and enhances the richness and vitality of the culture of the city.

The awards, held at Tākina Convention & Exhibition Centre, were hosted by Deputy Mayor Laurie Foon – a previous winner of the award in 2017, in recognition of her role as an advocate for sustainability within the business sector.

“I know what an honour it is to have received this award, so I’m proud to be the one acknowledging this year’s recipients and their amazing mahi.

“Volunteers are the taonga and heart of our communities, so this is a great opportunity to share their stories, understand the massive contribution they have made, and honour them and their loved ones on this special night.”

Established in 1986, the awards were originally known as the Civic Awards, recognising Wellingtonians who had given significant voluntary service in the areas of community service or welfare, sport, culture, the arts, recreation and education.

In 1994, Wellington’s then Mayor Fran Wilde suggested reinvigorating the awards, to acknowledge those who have made a significant contribution to the city, often out of the public eye.

Five years later, in 1999, the Civic Awards became the Absolutely Positively Wellingtonian Awards.

Winners receive a certificate recognising their achievement.

Full list of 2023 APW recipients

Matt Dagger

Matt Dagger is a man with mana and over 10 million meals distributed to vulnerable members of our community during his time at Kaibosh. 

Matt left Kaibosh Food Rescue this year after more than 10 years of living and breathing the vision of Zero Food Poverty, Zero Food Waste. When Matt joined Kaibosh, there were two staff, one truck and a handful of volunteers!  

Matt grew the organisation to 25 staff and three hub operations with over 180 volunteers. He held true to Kaibosh being the link between the food industry and those who support people in need. Currently around 140 charities throughout the Greater Wellington region receive  food weekly from Kaibosh. This amazing mahi has also diverted thousands of tonnes of food waste from landfill, and in turn reduced emissions.  

Matt was instrumental in getting the Good Samaritan clause into the 2014 Food Act, which revolutionised the business of donating food across Aotearoa, and he has always shared his knowledge and resources openly.  

Eugene Doyle

Eugene Doyle has had a profound effect on Wellington’s Southern, coastal community – and his efforts continue. He is a dedicated – and vocal! - advocate for improving Owhiro Stream’s water quality, which led to his being selected as the community representative for the Mayor’s Three Waters task force. At the same time, he worked with the Water Reform transition group to ensure his community’s voice is heard.
In 2020 a massive storm sent severe life-threatening waves along Wellington’s southern coast, and Eugene jumped into action – working with Wellington’s Regional Emergency Management Office (WREMO) and Council to implement a warning system for future emergencies. This led to Eugene co-founding 4C (Coastal Communities and Climate Change) to advocate for adaption and solutions for coastal communities, bringing together residents’ associations, mana whenua, government, councils and scientists.
Eugene is also the chair of the recently established Network of Wellington Residents’ Association.

Lafulafu Vanila Ekenasio

Lafulafu is an unsung hero in the Wellington community. She is a founding member and Chairperson of the Mafutaga Tagata Matutua PIPC Newtown (Senior exercise group), an active senior leader at the Pacific Island Presbyterian Church in Newtown, a member of the Pasifika Community Patrol Group and has dedicated over 20 years of service as a volunteer.
Lafulafu is passionate about the health and well-being of our elderly and has mobilised and created a safe space for Pacific people in Wellington to come together to exercise, share their stories and raise any concerns and support they may need. She has organised many community events in partnership with government and community organisations. 
Every year you will find Lafulafu with the Mafutaga Tagata Matutua group performing at the Wellington Pasifika Festival, bringing joy to our Wellington community, and also inspiring our everyone by showing there is no age limit to what you can do  –  with her oldest member 90 years of age. 

Creatif Kate

Kate holds together a strong stream of the underground and exploratory arts shows in Wellington. She's coached and facilitated hundreds of artists coming into the scene over the years, offering classes, workshops, shows, and mentorships.

Kate is a disabled queer artist herself, and takes particular attention to create safe spaces for women, sex workers, the trans and queer community, disabled people, and other marginalized communities to do the same. 

Outside of shows and classes, Kate is a huge advocate for the Living Wage and fair wages for artists, and has often worked without pay so she can help others in her show make a wage. Kate has battled through the pandemic and CNZ funding cuts to keep the arts scene blooming all over Wellington.

A producer, writer, performer, teacher and director at Wellington Feminist Poetry Club, producer and teacher of classes and shows in the Disabled Artists' Festival of Theatre,  
performer and director of shows in the Fringe Festival, Kate is also well known and beloved by many as 'the Fairy Queermother'.

Reverend Stephen King

Stephen was ordained in the Anglican Church in 1994. For the first 14 years he was a self-supporting clergy person working in various management positions in IT and the Energy Sector. 

In 2010 Stephen made the move to full-time employment in the church, initially as a full-time master’s student at the Episcopal Seminary of the Southwest in Austin Texas. On completion of the degree in 2012 he returned to Wellington and became Archdeacon for Mission and Vicar of Saint Barnabas in Roseneath. 

As Archdeacon of Mission, he was responsible for a broad range of Diocesan initiatives including the initial setup and delivery of the Anglican Studies Programme and diocesan support of refugee resettlement. In 2016 he became Archdeacon of Wellington, a role he held until 2019. Stephen is currently Co-Vicar at St Peter's. 
In addition to his role at St Peter's, Stephen sits on the board of The Family Centre in Lower Hutt and chairs the board of Inner-City Wellington. He is also a board member at both the local and national level in the Living Wage Movement and has been a leader in this area for many years.

Trevor Lloyd

Trevor has been volunteering his time to the Ngaio Community for over 25 years, whether it be as a member of the Ngaio Crofton Downs Residents Association, organising community events, or developing the Cummings Park tracks and keeping the park itself looking beautiful. 

Despite moving to Malvina Major, and being 90 years of age, Trevor can often be found in Cummings Park clearing leaves off the track and looking after some of the special native trees and plants to ensure the park is looking nice for users. 

Trevor is an amazing volunteer and champion for the Ngaio community.

Constable Gary Mitchell, JP

Constable Gary Mitchell showed exceptional bravery and selflessness during a harrowing incident on March 26this year. Gary was one of the first on the scene to a one-vehicle accident in Wellington Central where he took immediate action.  He fearlessly rescued two trapped passengers from a burning car, risking his own life in the process. 

Despite inhaling toxic fumes, he remained steadfast in his commitment to their safety. His extraordinary actions embody the true spirit of a hero. He was rushed to Wellington Hospital, where he received urgent medical attention for smoke inhalation and poisoning from toxic fumes. 

With critical levels of carbon dioxide in his blood, he remained devoted to the passenger he had saved, providing comfort and support throughout their recovery. 

Gary is the only person in the history of New Zealand to hold both offices of Constable and Justice of the Peace at the same time.

Rex Nicholls

Rex is an engineer, property investor, and was a City Councillor for 12 years. He’s known for his innovative approach to protecting heritage buildings – including the challenging relocation of the wooden Shamrock Hotel to Tinakori Road in 1981, which prevented its demolition.

In 2004 when Council took ownership of the Embassy Theatre – a Category 1 heritage building – it undertook to replace its aluminium entrance with a replica of the original façade, which wasn’t done in a timely manner so Rex decided to do it himself. 

He established the Embassy Theatre Trust 2020 to oversee the project, which was financed by Rex and his wife, Dame Kerry Prendergast. Rex found the original design details, then hired a heritage architect and local craftsmen.

Despite the challenges, including the installation of large digital advertising billboards on the building to repay the million-dollar loan, Rex persevered. The replica facade and foyer were opened last year.  

Amanda Richardson

Amanda has been volunteering at Take 10, a late night safe zone in Courtenay Place, for two years. She works most Saturday nights from 10pm – 3am. She is a valued and trusted member of the team who is generous with her time, her passion, and her commitment to Take 10.

Amanda loves looking after potentially vulnerable people and has a genuine empathy towards anyone who comes to Take 10 needing support. People trust her and enjoy spending time with her.  She has wonderful conversations with people, and her friendly and welcoming manner make people feel safe.

Amanda chose Take 10 as she likes that people view it as a non-judgmental space. 

"We have people who feel comfortable telling us that they've taken something and are worried about their health but don't want to go to the hospital and know we'll make sure they're safe. Pre-Take 10, I'd walk down Courtenay Place, I'd often see quite a few young people, particularly women, just lying on the footpath late at night and no one really knowing how to help".

Amanda is also a volunteer for CubaDupa and the Wellington Fringe Festival.

Andrea Skews

Andrea has been a very active community member for more than six years.

She is currently Chair of the Karori Residents Association, a role she has held for the past four years.

The Karori Residents Association has been instrumental in helping guide council investment and planning in the local area, especially over the past few years in respect of developing up a clear plan highlighting the long-term infrastructure needs for Karori.

Andrea is also an active member of Karori Rotary. 

Andrea has been liaising with the RSA and NZ Army organising a new memorial for the first contingent of New Zealand Mounted Rifles that trained on Ben Burn Park, and securing funding and volunteer help for the Wrights Hill recreation area for new landscaping, picnic tables, planting and safety cameras.

Andrea also led the set-up of the Friends of Waipāhihi Karori Stream to improve local stream health. A stream where local kids and pets are often seen playing in the summer months.

In recent times, Andrea started a Karori Safety Group which incorporates Karori Residents Assn, Karori Business Association, Neighbourhood Watch, and was one of the founders and sponsors of the local Karori Community patrol a couple of years ago.