The Board was pleased to present the ‘Eastbournes’ to Barry Ray,  Toy Library,  EHEA and Phil Benge (information from Eastbourne Herald November 2015)

Barry Ray – 25 years of outstanding service to the community as a volunteer with the Eastbourne Volunteer Fire Brigade

Barry Ray was awarded an Eastbourne Award for 25 years of dedication to the Eastbourne Fire Service and the Eastbourne community. Barry’s service was recognised at a national level earlier this year when he was awarded a Gold Star for 25 years of service. With the presentation of an Eastbourne Award, “on behalf of the Eastbourne residents, we thank Barry for his willingness to give up so much of his life to the hours of voluntary work that are part of a volunteer fireman’s life,” board member Gilane Khalil said. The Eastbourne Volunteer Fire Service not only fight fires, but since 1996 when they joined with ACC and Wellington Free Ambulance to form the East Harbour First Response team, they attend medical emergencies as first responders.

Barry has been the Deputy Chief Fire Officer for eighteen years and as such has taken on the responsibility of being the brigade’s training officer. His extensive knowledge, dedication to training and his desire to pass on his skills and experience have been a huge benefit to all members of the Eastbourne Fire Service. Barry’s fellow firefighters attest to his determination to get the job done no matter what the circumstances and the fact they can rely on him to watch out for them and everyone else in a testing situation. Barry has also taken part in national competitions run for volunteer firefighters that require a high level of fitness and cooperation. Twice he has been a member of the Hutt Valley championship’s winning team.

Toy Library – bringing fun and variety to the lives of the children, parents and grandparents of Eastbourne and Bays

The Eastbourne Toy Library was recognised for bringing fun and variety to the lives of the children, parents and grandparents of Eastbourne. Set up by Rev Reg Weeks and a group of local parents in 1996, for the last nineteen years the group has been supporting Eastbourne families with an endless supply of high quality toys at minimal cost. 

The non-profit community group runs two sessions a week from the St Ronan’s Church Hall for members to come and borrow toys. A member-based service, the toy library is run by a group of volunteer committee members that employ a toy librarian, currently Kathryn Meates, and members assist the librarian during opening hours in exchange for reduced fees. The library receives support through governance and administration guidance from the Toy Library of New Zealand of which it is a member. The Toy Library generates income from memberships, grants and fundraising. One of their great fundraisers in the early years was getting a range of vehicles to take kids on rides around the block out at Seaview industrial area for $1. They had fire engines, ambulances, police cars, big rigs and even Ferraris. More recently fundraising efforts have been made through market stalls, bouncy castle hire, raffles and toy sales. Membership fluctuates from year to year, and this year they have 45 member families which equates to the involvement of 76 local children. Local Eastbourne businesses and organisations have been very supportive of the Toy Library including: the MenzShed who fix broken toys, the Eastbourne Bays Community Trust who have awarded grants for toy purchases and Eastbourne Public Library who host their toys during Toy Library Awareness Week. 

EHEA – many years of watching over and caring for our environment in Eastbourne and the Bays

East Harbour Environmental Association The East Harbour Environmental Association (EHEA) was recognised for its care and protection of Eastbourne’s natural environment. EHEA was one of the earliest environmental groups in New Zealand, founded in 1973 – a year before Greenpeace New Zealand. Two concurrent events led to the group’s formation: a serious bush fire at Kowhai Street and a proposal for a major cut and fill reclamation at Mahina Bay. Locals people banded together to set about the heart-breaking work of replanting the forest after the fire and also to stop destructive development in Mahina Bay. Since then the group has worked through various avenues to protect the Eastern Bays’ environment. Concerns about the effects that pest animals were having on the bush led to the creation of a “Possum Busters” team to deal to the problem.

The team grew and eventually decided to form its own stand alone group, the Mainland Island Restoration Organisation (MIRO). Providing expert local input on draft plans has been another significant aspect of the work of EHEA. Submissions have been made on draft plans for Wellington Harbour, East Harbour Regional Park, shingle mining in Fitzroy Bay, weed control, water quality, and making the case for a secondary sewage treatment plant at Seaview. EHEA has tirelessly advocated for investment to enhance walking and cycling access around the bays. It also played a pivotal role in securing a bus lane on the Esplanade in Petone. With regular bush walks into the park, outings to see Eastbourne’s unique orchids in flower, the publication of a number of booklets on local walks in the area, and playing host to notable environmental speakers as part of its public AGMs, EHEA has provided ongoing environmental education for the community. Today, EHEA has a board of eight and a membership of 160 households. It continues its work to restore the natural environment while also standing up to protect the community from inappropriate development.

EHEA is currently: Advocating for the installation of fencing to protect the Pencarrow coastal escarpment from browsing stock; Fighting invasive weeds in the park through its community Adopt-a-Track programme; Holding regular beach clean-ups; Submitting on council plans, the latest being Plan Change 36. “On behalf of Eastbourne and the Bays, the Board would like to thank the East Harbour Environmental Association for being the champions of our beloved bush and sea,” community board member Hayden Ray said on presenting EHEA with their award.

Phil Benge – many years of ‘brightening’ and documenting Eastbourne life through wonderful photography and for his selfless service to the Eastbourne Community

Phil was recognised for brightening and documenting Eastbourne life through his wonderful photography and for his selfless service to the Eastbourne Community. Phil is well known throughout the community as the man behind the camera at almost every local event, capturing memories for local schools, churches, sports and community groups. Frequently his photographs grace the pages of the Eastbourne Herald and they often feature with the weather on television. Many dozens of locals will have found a “complimentary cd” has been covertly dropped in their letterbox by Phil; cds from events or activities that Phil spotted them at and snapped a special memory as a keepsake for them.

For his visual cataloguing of the living history of the bays, Phil never asks for – and in fact has been known to refuse – payment. He even took it upon himself to organise a photographer for this month’s Eastbourne Awards ceremony, a role he has always undertaken until this year finding himself needed on the other side of the camera. (After much encouragement he did have a first ever attempt at a “selfie” on someone’s cellphone, but was not enamoured by the process). Baby Phil arrived in Eastbourne in 1945 and moved to Lower Hutt six years later. It was not until 1996, a few years before his retirement from a 36-year career with the police, that Phil was to return. Phil’s camera skills were honed when he was trained as a police forensic photographer. On moving back to the bays he began offering those skills to locals. “By his very nature he loves helping people out, anyone and everyone,” board member Murray Gibbons said on presenting Phil with his award. Phil’s community involvement goes beyond photography – he makes quite a fetching fairy compering the community Christmas Carols and is a “possum buster”, taking to the bush with friends Wal Lowden and Colin Dalziel, a trio known commonly as the “Last of the Summer Wine” men. Collectively the men have trapped over 850 possums as well as numerous stoats and rats. Receiving his award, Phil said he was “honoured and humble, but so delighted”, saying he couldn’t do what he does without the help of his wife and daughter.