Community of the Year Paihia! Awards Night

Paihia has been rewarded for its emphasis on community by being named the winner of the Mitre 10 Community of the Year award as part of the Kiwibank New Zealander of the Year awards ceremony held in Auckland on Wednesday 25 February. The annual awards, now in their sixth year, is a celebration of New Zealand and New Zealanders.

The Mitre 10 Community of the Year award focuses on team work, enthusiasm, hard work and co-operation and acknowledges groups actively working to improve the social, economic, cultural or environmental prosperity of their region. Paihia were selected winners as  residents have worked together to boost the local economy and revitalise the region through increasing facilities and events to create a town full of lifestyle opportunities.

Paihia’s entry into the awards was arranged by the Focus Paihia Community Trust. “I couldn’t be more proud to accept this award on behalf of our community,” said Tiffany Holland, Co-ordinator at Focus Paihia.

“I would like to thank Mitre 10 for giving us this wonderful opportunity to gain some recognition for all the wonderful efforts that our community do for our town. “We’re so lucky to have a diverse, extremely talented bunch of people in our town who are willing to give their time.”

Mitre 10 chief executive Neil Cowie said it was an honour to sponsor the Community of the Year award for the sixth year and was extremely impressed with Paihia’s achievements.

“The residents of Paihia are a shining example. They’ve demonstrated the power of a community and how it can draw people together and transform a place for the better. Their effort is putting Paihia back on the map, and it has only been possible through the tireless effort of hundreds of volunteers.”

“This is a tremendous achievement and we are very proud and humbled by this accolade for our Paihia community” said Focus Paihia Chair, Grant Harnish.

The Award acknowledges the large number of diverse community organisations, volunteers and effort that is ongoing into Paihia’s drive to become an exceptional place to live, work and visit.  “It reinforces and celebrates what can be achieved when a community takes responsibility for its destiny and the difference you can make – quite a powerful story really” said Grant.

The nomination included the wider communities of Opua, Haruru Falls and Waitangi and outlined a wide range of activities, including recent initiatives and events, community volunteer organisations and clubs. “To give you an idea of the scope of great works, just in the ‘Highlighted Organisations’ section were the following… Cruise Ship Committee, Waitangi Golf Club, Bay of Islands Rotary Club, Paihia Community Patrol, Bay Bush Action Trust, Fish Forever, Business Paihia Inc, Friends of Williams House, Paihia Op Shop, Bay of Islands Yacht Club, Paihia Fire Brigade, Paihia St John’s Ambulance, Bay of Islands Special Olympics and the Paihia Branch of the Motel Association of New Zealand” said Tiffany Holland, one of the authors of the document.

Along with a big boost of encouragement and building momentum, the Award provides a platform to progress the vision for Paihia.  Sarah Greener, Focus Paihia Treasurer, said “we are now visible on a national scale which will hopefully allow access to more decision makers to help move our varied projects forward…and probably develop a few more along the way.”

The town is keen to share it’s learnings and help create similar sea change in other Far North towns first and then maybe throughout New Zealand. “It’s about reducing this Zombie town effect people are talking about. These places are peoples homes and should be celebrated and developed not lost” said Sarah.  We want to see more communities taking back ownership of their towns and growing the active participants in improving their quality of life… not just sitting back and waiting for someone else to do it for them”.

The philosophy is around supporting communities to have a hand up rather than a hand out.  “We want to advocate driving community development by residents not by council or government” said Sarah. “Both of these bodies should be seen as a support networks to communities not an impediment.  By working together we can be more sustainable through making changes that create more liveable communities, with less cost through community empowerment and activity”.

“And the personal rewards are both satisfying and fulfilling“ said Grant. “I have loved being involved and seeing our community coming together, strengthening and the place is looking and feeling so much better.  It’s just fantastic”.

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