Inspiration at Western Bay Community Awards 2023

Heart of the Community Award winners, Poutiri Wellness Centre

On Thursday 16th March, the outstanding contributions of community groups and volunteers were recognised at the 2023 Western Bay Community Awards.

Around 300 people gathered at Baycourt to acknowledge the finalists and congratulate the winners, all of whom are making a significant positive impact in the Tauranga and Western Bay region.

Previously known as the TECT Community Awards, the Western Bay Community Awards were this year delivered in partnership by the Bay’s local funders Acorn Foundation, BayTrust, TECT, Tauranga City Council, and Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

“The Community Awards are all about recognising the good sorts in our region and celebrating the passion, dedication, and incredible work they deliver for our communities,” says TECT Chairperson, Bill Holland.

“We thank them for the immeasurable difference they are making and hope the awards go some way in showing how much their contribution means to the community.”

The 24 finalists were announced late last year, with videos showcasing their work shared online over the past six weeks. Winners were revealed at the awards ceremony on Thursday night.

The Western Bay Community Awards winners for 2023 are:

·         Event Excellence Award: STEMFest

·         Sustainable Future Award: PiPS – People, Plants, Schools

·         Diversity and Inclusion Award: StarJam

·         Heart of the Community: Poutiri Wellness Centre

·         Youth Spirit Award: Jasrose Kaur Mallhi

·         Volunteer of the Year Award: Tony Booth

·         People’s Choice Award: Luke Landon

·         Lifetime Service Award: Basil and Ann Graeme

PiPS – People & Plants in Schools has been a finalist in the Sustainable Future Award before. Clare Rogers, Manager of PiPS, says they are excited to have the work they are so passionate about recognised by winning the award this year.

“We have been working for seven years at the local schools and we keep growing and growing; it’s just been an amazing experience,” says Rogers.

“This is more for the children; we keep talking about the generation that lost how to garden. Just seeing the kid’s faces and their smiles, in the dirt, it is wonderful and really makes it worth it.”

Sustainable Future Award winners, PiPS - People & Plants in Schools

Poutiri Wellness Centre were announced winners of the Heart of the Community Award, acknowledging the very important work they do in delivering hauora services in Te Puke.

General Manager of Poutiri Wellness Centre, Kirsty Maxwell-Crawford says, “Most special for most of us is that we serve in the communities that we love, we are a part of, that we are from, that are a number of us whakapapa too. That is a real blessing for us, that we get to every day be serving the needs of families from all walks of life and to impact by helping to meet their health needs.”

Lifelong volunteers, Ann and Basil Graeme, were presented with the Lifetime Service Award in recognition of the many decades they have devoted to conservation and environmental projects.

“This is a great honour,” says Anne Graeme. “Conservation 50 years ago was a hard struggle and very little recognised. It is wonderful to see so many groups now engaged in all manner of projects.”

“What I like the best, is doing things in these great places like Mauao and along the beach and in the forest; these are the places we want to be, and what better fun than to go out with friendly people and do something to help the beach and forest thrive.”

Lifetime Service Award winners, Basil and Ann Graeme

Applause erupted from Baycourt throughout the evening, as the work of all the finalists was showcased and celebrated.

The audience was also treated to spectacular performances by Autangi Ensemble; Te Kura o Matapihi kapa haka; and Diversity and Inclusion Award winners, StarJam.

Community representatives Carlo Ellis, Paul Geoghegan and Vicki Semple made up the judging panel of the Western Bay Community Awards.

Semple says selecting the finalists and winners out of the high calibre nominees was a challenging task, but learning about the work of dedicated people across our region was inspirational.

“It’s a real privilege to honour the generous, resourceful, and visionary people and groups who are working to build happy, healthy, safe and thriving communities here in the Bay of Plenty.

“We’re incredibly lucky to have so many volunteers and community groups working to meet the needs of our communities. These people are putting in the mahi and inspiring change. They don’t do it for recognition, so it was fantastic to be able to thank and applaud them for their contributions.”

Over 45 nominations were received across six award categories, and more than 1,300 votes submitted for the People’s Choice Award.

Videos highlighting the efforts of each winner will be released on TECT’s Facebook page this week.


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