The honours system has got it wrong again, reads the editorial in today’s Waikato Times.
“If the heroism of all the people caught up in the terrible events at Tamahere are not acknowledged soon, it will be a complete travesty.”
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Every year, without fail, the New Year’s Honours list somehow contrives to make a mockery of what it sets out to achieve, says the Waikato Times editorial.
The editorial continues:
Many who deserve to be rewarded are, but too often the system gets it wrong. The latest list was no exception. The most obvious case of this was the awards for the most senior Fire Service managers involved in the April 2008 Icepak explosion and fire at Tamahere.
This newspaper has given its full backing to all of the firefighters involved in, and affected by, the blast – time and again they have shown us what bravery and comradeship are about. However, the honours system has done them a disservice.
Queen’s Service Medals were given to Waikato fire manager Roy Breeze, Waikato fire deputy manager Martin Berryman, Eastern fire manager Gary Talbot, Hamilton senior firefighter Peter Hallett and Waikato-Bay of Plenty area manager Owen Kinsella for services to the New Zealand Fire Service.
They are all good men and it must be said Mr Breeze and Mr Talbot in particular bent over backwards to make sure the people of the Waikato were up with the play through exceptional liaison with this newspaper. But the awards do not sit well. None of the firefighters injured in the tragedy were recognised.
Mr Talbot rightly acknowledged that accepting the awards had been “a little bit awkward to start with” and that he was still “really mindful” of those injured and that it was “very much about a team”. These thoughts were honorably echoed by the rest of the group, with Mr Breeze saying they had asked what recognition there would be for those injured. “We wanted to make sure they were recognised.”
Apparently, they were assured the other firefighters would receive something in the future. “I definitely think that it’s just the order of things and how they came out,” Mr Breeze said.
It is unfortunate Mr Breeze has had to defend the system. The injured firefighters should have been the first in line. Quite rightly, they’re angry.
Two of them expressed their disappointment to the Waikato Times, one saying that it was yet “another slap in the face”. He was dismayed that the bosses had been recognised ahead of those injured or killed.
The second supported the awards for Mr Talbot and Mr Berryman – mainly for their great work after the fire – but said that the first crew at the scene and members of the public who helped should have been recognised for their heroism.
The angry firemen are right. It beggars belief that their bravery on the day and ongoing fight to regain their health and return to work should be acknowledged after the efforts of their bosses.
The honours system has got it wrong again. Moreover, it has divided a group of men who fought so hard together, on the day and in the months that have followed.
If the heroism of all the people caught up in the terrible events at Tamahere are not acknowledged soon, it will be a complete travesty.