Mills Reef Winery and Restaurant, Bethlehem, Tauranga
Hon Tariana Turia, Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector
Saturday 19 March 2011
I have had the most wonderful day, immersed in the stories of extraordinary members of our community.
This has been a day where we have been impressed by a cast of heroes, champions, angels, mayors and superstars all disguised as ordinary people.
It has been a day where organisations have demonstrated that they live to serve - to serve with compassion, with respect, and with absolute dedication.
I have had the privilege of hearing how your non-profit organisations have given back to New Zealand's communities in so many ways - from preserving and promoting the local history and environment to providing much needed education and support.
It has been a very good way to round off a period of our lives in which we have all been touched by such loss in the aftermath of the earthquakes in Christchurch, and more recently in Japan.
One of the resounding messages from the National Memorial Service held yesterday was how the selfless acts of kindness and generosity that have occurred over the last month, have revealed humanity at its very best.
In the face of adversity, the true spirit of our nation has risen up - with countless examples of people just wanting to help, to care, to listen, to provide tangible, meaningful support to Christchurch and its wider community.
Whanau, hapu and iwi right across Aotearoa immediately responded by offering up their marae, their koha, their homes to all those needing shelter and hope.
Local farmers joined together to create the 'Farmy Army', which became focussed on cleaning up liquefaction. Five hundred volunteers made up the 'Rangiora Earthquake Express' to deliver food and aid parcels to the worst affected in the Eastern suburbs. And the 'Student Volunteer Army', amongst other groups, used the power of the world-wide-web to mobilise students to get out on the streets and make a difference.
And there are thousands more who together, have helped us to focus on the important task of rebuilding communities and restoring hope to all our families.
And so it is a perfect opportunity tonight, to recognise and reward the work of volunteers right around our country, and to say thank you for making your life your message.
The message from each of the groups featured in this Awards Dinner is that they want to make a difference through their contribution. They want to make our communities a better place to live- and they will do what it takes, to achieve that goal.
Tonight we recognise 25 of the country's top voluntary groups - but we all know of thousands more that could be sharing the stage with us.
As the Minister for the Community and Voluntary Sector I am so proud of the amazing efforts you give to make every day better.
Volunteers are the backbone behind every New Zealand community, with some 1.2 million volunteers dedicating more than 270 million unpaid hours every year - all for the greater good.
I want to mihi to Bruce Harker, the Chair of TrustPower; for the initiative of Trust Power in establishing these awards; and Jim Mora and Julia Bloore of TVNZ6's Volunteer Power for broadcasting the stories of voluntary efforts to a greater audience.
Your efforts to acknowledge, celebrate and promote the work of volunteers is in itself worthy of our thanks because it helps to fuel our collective enthusiasm, to understand the gift of giving.
This year marks ten years since the International Year of Volunteers in 2001. As we look back over this decade, we must ensure we take every opportunity to learn from the knowledge of the community sector.
We must take the time to benefit from the insight and wisdom of the unsung heroes whom we honour tonight - to understand their experiences and responses to particular issues that affect communities.
One of the most distinctive aspects of these Community Awards for me is the affirmation provided by the communities themselves about the 'value added' from the groups we recognise tonight.
It is extremely humbling to hear from the various communities about how they have appreciated the various ways in which the community groups and volunteers have done so much to improve their lives, to make each day better.
Thank you to everyone here for taking the time to honour the remarkable people that we pay tribute to in these National Awards.
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