Think of Newtown, and one of Wellington’s much-loved street-parties springs to mind – Newtown Festival. Rhona Carson has been an integral part of the festival in her role as General Administrator. Essentially, she is at the coalface where rubber-meets-the-road in the race to have everything ready for the next successful festival. It’s a round-the-year job.
Since 1990 Rhona has lived in a charming Newtown cottage that backs on to the Town Belt. Tending to the section has become a challenge. Instead, it is utilised by organisations such as Seeds to Feeds, to grow vegetables for the community. She has also played a behind the scenes role in having community gardens maintained and planted.
Rhona originally had a career as a social worker and psychotherapist in the mental health service. She joined the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists in 1987, becoming a full member in 1998. She was elected to the NZAP Council in 2001 and appointed Honorary Secretary the following year, serving the maximum 6-year term, and staying active in several roles after that. She retired from psychotherapy in 2012, and it was after retirement that she had the time and energy to become involved with the Newtown community, firstly with Newtown Festival and then with the Residents’ Association.
Rhona has now been the President of the Newtown Residents Association for seven years, advocating for what the Association believes is the best for its members and the local community. She is a member of the Wellington Supervisors Group and is the Association’s archivist to help keep its institutional memory alive.
As the 12th City Missioner, Murray Edridge is the first who isn’t an ordained Anglican priest. Generous with his time and talents, he helps other community agencies providing advice on initiatives like the Social Supermarket, which is now being replicated across New Zealand.
His generosity extends to the community, including his engagement with Wellington City Council, through the Pōneke Promise, and the Mayoral Taskforce for Social Housing. Other roles include joint chair of Kore Hiakai and a partner in Aro Mai as well as contributing to other areas addressing homelessness and need.
Murray also has a long history of community service as a volunteer firefighter, honorary auditor, coach, hosting international students and church leadership roles. He has also held senior roles in Barnados, Ministry of Social Development, and the Genesis Youth Trust, working with young offenders and their whanau in Auckland. But first and foremost, he is a passionate and committed Wellingtonian.
With many years voluntary service to her name, Hiromi helped maintain Wellington’s 10 sister-city relationships. These relationships play a significant role in developing greater economic outcomes, cultural activities and religious understanding in our capital.
Hiromi’s hard work over 10 years as president of Sister Cities NZ, and more as a committee member, has contributed to the sustained success of the relationships with Xiamen and Beijing, China (in place for 35 and 16 years respectively) and Sakai for 28. Passionate about youth development and leadership, she launched the Youth Subcommittee of the organisation in 2016, which she continues to be involved with.
Standing down as President earlier this year, she has been appointed Emeritus President of Sister Cities New Zealand, now operating as Global Cities New Zealand, in an advisory role.
For almost six decades, Bruce Greenfield’s delicate fingers have entertained and delighted visitors to Government House. Appointed as official pianist under Sir Bernard Fergusson in 1967, he has served 13 Governor Generals.
Much of the work of a vocal coach, repetiteur, accompanist, and Head of Music goes on behind the scenes, unacknowledged and unseen. But, these unsung heroes of the classical and music theatre worlds shape the performance, enabling musicians to present an excellent rendition.
Bruce has accompanied a huge array of NZ opera singers like Richard Greager, Margaret Medlyn and Dame Malvina Major. In his thirty years of opera repetiteur work he has played at masterclasses of visiting artists like Luciano Pavarotti, Grace Brumby, Tom Krause, and Sir Donald MacIntyre. He has collaborated with many composers including Jenny McLeod, Lyell Cresswell, Gareth Farr, and Dame Gillian Whitehead.
He has played with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Wellington and has been a rehearsal pianist for the Royal NZ Ballet, repetiteur for Wellington City Opera, and the newly formed Wellington Opera. He also formed the first New Zealand piano trio, the Gagliano Trio, with the Chisholm brothers John and Alan.
Through his years of performance and teaching, Bruce has made a significant contribution to the music scene both in Wellington and throughout the country.
Scott Kennedy and Malcolm Vaughan
Scott Kennedy and Malcolm Vaughan have been trailblazers in Wellington’s gay scene and history since the early 1990s. Having first met at Mr Gay New Zealand in 1992, they were married in Hawaii in 2003 in a much-publicised ceremony, as they were unable to be married here at that time.
In the dark days before homosexual law reform, Malcolm had managed a series of late-night haunts in the capital. Initially they were secret spaces for homosexual men to meet, as it was illegal and dangerous to do so. Malcolm then opened the well-known and celebrated Bamboo Bar and Casper’s. Their first joint venture, ironically in the old public toilets on Kent and Cambridge terraces, was The Dome Piano & Garden Bar, followed by Bojangles and Pound nightclubs, and finally Scotty & Mal’s Cocktail & Lounge Bar.
More than just a place to drink, all these venues provided a safe place in the capital for a rainbow of marginalised LGBTQIA+ people to meet. It even attracted a few mayors and councillors, and prime ministers and other politicians – everyone was welcome, and everyone was looked after.
Scotty and Mal have also been leaders for many LGBTQI+ causes, including vocal advocacy for prostitution law reform in 2003 and same-sex marriage in 2013. The businesses have supported many community initiatives: Devotion and Deus dance parties, rainbow dragon boaters, Crazy Knights rugby team, and many more.
Scotty and Mal were in the process of selling their famed S&Ms Bar to another operator, who would have continued to support the LGBTQI+ community. Covid put a stop to that, and they remain firmly behind the bar.
In 2000, Scotty and Mal co-founded the After Life Memorial Trust – now called The Chrissy Witoko Memorial Trust – which originally provided financial help for those in the rainbow community who died of HIV/AIDS. Today, it continues to provide a wide range of support for LGBTQI+ people in the Wellington region.
Mukesh Jeram Patel
Mukesh Jeram Patel arrived in New Zealand from India in 1989. Before joining the Wellington Indian Association in 1993 he was member of Lions Club of Eastern suburbs. He quickly became involved in running the Association’s Video Club.
In 1994 Mukesh became Assistant secretary of WIA. Three years later it led to Mukesh writing a book on India’s Freedom Fight which was distributed free of charge to all Wellington Indian Association members.
Mukesh also designed and established the Association’s membership database, to use with Patrika (newsletter) distribution. He took the lead in publishing the Patrika for more than 17 years, including enhancing the engagement of our older or Indian migrant members.
At Wellington Indian Association he is first to start celebrating different festivals which now attended by many people. He chaired different committees at Wellington Indian Association, he was president and now chairman of the board of the Wellington Indian Association.
He is also DJ on community radio the Wellington Access Radio for more than 20 years.
Judy Siers' contribution to our community have been vast and various. With her husband James, the couple founded Millwood Press, a book producer in the 1960s. Local stories became a significant part of their publishing programme and early books were milestones in illustrated Wellington histories.
They lived in historic Thorndon for 6 years before moving to Ngaio in 1967. Chew Cottage would be their family home for the next 40 years.
Since joining the Onslow Historical Society in 1968, Judy has devoted over 50 years of service. She has been President not once but three times since 1985, a role she still currently holds. She founded the society’s journal ‘The Onslow Historian’ and publishing programme and manages the archive and events schedule.
Judy was elected and served four terms on Wellington City Council, representing the Onslow and Northern wards from 1994 to 2004. Heritage, culture, and environment were her foremost issues. She took a major role in compiling the heritage section of WCC’s first District Plan, proudly the first in the country, and the establishment of the Wellington Museum Trust. She worked alongside current Wellington Mayor Andy Foster.
Judy has made many literary contributions but is best known for her stunning architectural story ‘The life and times of James Walter Chapman-Taylor’ for which she received the Montana Book award for biography in 2004.
For those who either decide to rent accommodation, or have little choice other than renting, life can be challenging. Robert Whitaker decided to do something about it. He co-founded Renters United, a regional and national organisation that has transformed advocacy for renters.
The group organises renters and campaigns to make renting better for everyone in areas such as ensuring renters have Stable Homes, Fair Rent, Safe and Healthy Homes, and Meaningful Enforcement. While there is still work to do, it has led to big changes for those renting their homes.
Renters United isn’t just Wellington-based. It has national clout which includes a branch in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland.
Robert is a great strategic leader, and he freely passes on his wisdom by mentoring dozens of young people to be leaders in their communities.
Kura Moeahu of Te Atiawa, Nga Ruahine, Taranaki-tuturu, Ngati Mutunga, Ngati Tama and Ngati Toa descent who has strong whakapapa to both Te Whanganui a Tara and Taranaki.
He has spent more than three decades supporting communities across throughout his tribal takiwā which includes, the Hutt Valley and Wellington region bringing his expertise in te reo Māori, tikanga Māori, kapa haka, Māori governance and leadership.
Kura holds many leadership and governance roles, including the chair of Te Rūnanganui o Te Ati Awa ki te Upoko o te Ika a Māui Inc, Pipitea Marae Trust Board, Waiwhetu Marae, Atiawa Toa FM Radio Station and Harbour Island Kaitiaki Board.
He also sits on the board of Creative New Zealand, Wellington Institution of Technology, Whitireia and Wellington Māori Cultural Society.
Alongside his governance roles, he was the founder of the Wellington based kapa haka group, Nga uri o Tamarau in 2012 who performed in Te Matatini in 2013 and 2015.
Much of Kura’s time is given generously. He is committed to the long-term sustainability of Te Reo me nga Tikanga of his iwi. He works long hours, often waking before dawn to uphold tikanga and take care of the spiritual wellbeing of our spaces and places throughout the city, as well as working late into the night on Kaupapa (principles and policies).
His actions and traits reflect the symbol of the raukura – honour, peace and goodwill. This is significant to Taranaki Iwi as it represents the actions of their ancestors who responded to Crown aggression with peace and passive resistance.
Dan Henry walks-the-walk. One of the founders of Predator Free Miramar, and an extraordinary community motivator. Dan’s work and vision has helped galvanise households in Miramar, Strathmore, Seatoun and Breaker Bay.
Initially, the plan was to have a rat trap every five backyards, which roughly equated to a trap every 50 metres. Since its launch in 2017, volunteers, residents and Predator Free staff have trapped a whopping 10, 000 rats, weasels, and stoats.
With more than 1000 households involved and 1400 traps laid, they are seeing the ripple effect of their work. Birds have returned to the area in greater numbers and grassy areas are filled with skinks, which previously would have been eaten by rats.
Responsible for organising and supporting the work of Predator Free Wellington’s paid staff, Dan also regularly shows others in the community how to build traps. He’s even written a guide to help others who want to undertake to embark on a pest eradication in their community.
Brenda Watkin has been involved in community youth education for more than 50 years. Her dedication and enthusiasm were evident as she focused on helping people, particularly youth, to develop confidence and discover their strengths.
She's worked as a chaplain in a Guidance Learning Unit helping refugees and new arrivals, as well as teaching religious studies in local schools. Brenda has been deeply involved in Boys Brigade, the National Anchor Boys, ICONZ group, Parenting Place – Toolbox for Teenage years and Girls Brigade. She has been supportive in baby and carer groups and encouraged children participating in ANZAC Events and the Island Bay Festival.
Brenda is part of a church leadership team and an Elder. A talented musician, she is a regular accompanist at the local church. She is a star!
Ross Davis has been the Director of Youth Community Projects at Boys & Girls Institute Wellington for more than 20 years, leading BGI to empower rangatahi (the younger generation) to step into leadership roles and be the change that they want to see. Ross goes above and beyond what anyone would expect, skilfully demonstrating the role of Tangata Tiriti in bicultural practise as he works tirelessly to uplift rangatahi voices.
He is a mentor in the Tuia Mentoring Programme (part of the national Mayors’ Taskforce for Jobs) and has taken a personal and professional interest in working with mana whenua and Māori in Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Ross is a Trustee on the Tapu-te-Ranga Trust, and a long-time supporter of the whanau at the Island Bay-based marae.
Mark Dunajtschik and Dorothy Spotswood
Mark Dunajtschik and (his business and life partner) Dorothy Spotswood have been generous benefactors in Wellington for many years. Their extensive history of charitable contributions includes:
- Starting the helicopter rescue service Life Flight Trust and funding it for its first 10 years
- Supporting the Wellington Free Ambulance
- Disability provider Hohepa Homes
- Being some of the first private donors to the Michael Fowler Centre.
But their most recent donations – $50 million to build and donate a purpose-built children’s hospital and recently a similar amount pledged to build a new acute mental health unit at Hutt Hospital – has topped them all.
Mark and Dorothy took up property development and investment as a hobby when Mark was in his late 50’s. His legacy includes Harcourts Building, HSBC Tower, Environment House, Asteron Centre and now the Children’s Hospital, which opens in October.
Working as a team with no other staff, Mark does much of the building maintenance on his properties, while Dorothy manages the tenants and accounts. This award acknowledges the unprecedented generosity of a couple who, as passionate Wellingtonians, have done much who can’t help themselves, particularly the intellectually disabled.
If you’ve spent any time in Newtown, you’ve probably bumped into Tom Law. He’s lived in the Newtown area for the past 53 years and has packed a lot in to that time.
He has been on the committee and board of the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre since 1998, and on the committee of Smart Newtown – a computer hub providing free computer access – since its inception in 2000.
Tom has also been a member of the Wellington South Community Patrol since it was formed in 2011, acting as eyes and ears of the police to help make the Southern and eastern suburbs of Wellington safer. He is also has been a member of the Newtown Residents Association, having previously been on the committee and, for one year, President.
For six years Tom was involved in the management and organisation of the Newtown Festival when it was organised by the Residents Association.
Finally, Tom was a member of the Federation of Wellington Progressive and Residents Association (FWPRA) for eight years, six years as President.
Tagaloatele Emeritus Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop CNZM
Tagaloatele Emeritus Professor Peggy Fairbairn-Dunlop has spent over 50 years championing to improve the lives, education, and wellbeing of Pasifika people. A born and bred Wellingtonian, Tagaloatele attended Wellington Technical College and Teachers College, before becoming a university lecturer at the USP School of Agriculture (Alafua, Samoa) and then was appointed as the inaugural Director of Va'aomanu Pasifika at Victoria University of Wellington. Later she became the first Professor of Pacific Studies at Auckland University of Technology.
Pacific excellence and scholarship to improve outcomes for her people has always been at the centre of her work and service.
Aside from a distinguished academic career, Tagaloatele remains involved in Kilbirnie, where her parents made their first home when they migrated from Samoa.
She is the director of the Kilbirnie Salvation Army’s children’s ministry and holds other voluntary leadership roles on the TuTagata PolyFest, Aiga Sa Petaia and the PACIFICA Newtown branch.
She also manages the Vinepa Trust which for the past 34 years has delivered a weekly, community study hub in Kilbirnie.
Tagaloatele’s voluntary work and commitment to her community make her a deserving recipient and passionate Wellingtonian.