Tamahere “eco-warrior” Leo Koppens’ environmental work has been recognised with a Waikato District Council Mayoral Community Award.
Koppens was one of 13 community volunteers from around the district who received awards today at a moving event that was packed with their proud families and supporters.
Matangi’s Graham Membery, chairman of the Matangi Community Committee, received an award for his many years of community work.
The awards, held every second year and designed to highlight and reward significant, voluntary community contributions, were presented by Mayor Allan Sanson.
Koppens, a self-described “environmental terrorist”, has been restoring gullies for about 35 years, today’s ceremony audience was told.
“He began with restoration work on his own property, turning a 1.5 hectare unproductive gully into native woodland. His passion for environmental restoration has led him to voluntarily restore gully networks in Tamahere and Matangi.
“Leo has done an amazing job in the Tamahere Reserve along the Mangaone Stream and has also created the start of the Allan Turner Walkway and worked on the restoration of the Mangaharakeke Stream. All of this has been done in a purely volunteer capacity and Leo has inspired many other volunteers to assist him in his crusade.”
Two of Koppens’ fellow volunteers on the Tamahere Mangaone Restoration Trust, John Sheat and Willi Hodgson, attended today’s ceremony.
Koppens said after the ceremony that it was nice to be able to share the award with his fellow trustees.
“We share the workload so we share the award,” he said. “I love what I’m doing but having support helps me keep going. It’s also very rewarding work and I’d love to see others join us to get the benefit of seeing these natural places flourish and return to health.”
In a long list of community service, Graham Membery, currently Chairman of the Matangi Community Committee, has also been a committee member and former chairman of the Drainage Board. He is also current Chairman of the local drainage committee and has made a huge contribution to the drainage schemes in his district to manage the flooding issues.
Membery is also well known as a Matangi/Hillcrest Rugby Club member, a keen bowler and committee member of the Matangi Bowling Club, is very involved in the Matangi School and was one of a group that worked hard towards establishing the Jack Foster Reserve.
Also receiving awards were:
Angela Williams, Raglan, helped organise a Sunday and public holiday bus service for Raglan when the service was cancelled. She is Raglan Arts Council secretary and treasurer and Raglan Chamber of Commerce board member.
Gwen Oliver, Ngaruawahia, has been involved with Meals on Wheels for over 25 years and, aged 74, still delivers them to people in the town. She has also been involved with the Ngaruawahia Senior Citizens and Friendship club for 12 years, the last nine as Club President.
Graham McBride, Te Kowhai, led the Te Otamanui Lagoon Walkway project for many years on behalf of the Te Kowhai Community Committee.
Syd Goodwright, Otaua, current Chairman of the Aka Aka Otaua Land Drainage Subcommittee of the Waikato Regional Council, originally the Drainage Board, which started in 1895 and is the oldest such board in New Zealand. Syd joined in 1976 and is in his 40th year of service.
Elaine Preston, Ngaruawahia, led a successful crusade to keep the Ngaruawahia High School from closing and to turn its reputation around.
Gilbert Powley, Te Kauwhata, has voluntarily pruned the two thousand, iconic, heritage roses adorning the fences of the Te Kauwhata Road entrance for 20 years. He continues the job in his 90s.
Gail Mayall, Eureka, is Eureka Hall Committee secretary, an office holder and member of the badminton club and district reunion committee, helps produce the Eureka Express newspaper, and writes on local history.
Graham Gunn, Huntly, volunteers for many sporting club committees, served as a trustee of the Kimihia Home and Hospital, and helped initiate the volunteer house build project involving Huntly High School students.
Judith Pellow, Onewhero, has dedicated nearly 50 years to improving health within Franklin and has been an integral part of numerous local organisations and committees. She began volunteering for the Franklin community in 1966, first with Plunket, followed by the Tuakau and Districts Church, Onewhero Area School and the National Council of Women.