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Kootuku Rerenga Tahi, White Heron Award by Don Scarlet

Kootuku Rerenga Tahi, White Heron Award by Don Scarlet

1 December 2021

A special presentation speech given at our AGM Kootuku Rerenga Tahi – White Heron Award.

By Don Scarlet MNZM. Co-Chair, Sanctuary Mountain Maungatautari | Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust

Before I announce the recipient of this award, I want to pause and reflect on the essence of this award. 

Firstly, we all know a Kootuku, a white heron, is rare and beautiful. We also know a white heron’s visit is both rare and very special. This award honours a rare and special person who has provided longstanding exceptional volunteering service to MEIT.  

With the support of volunteers, staff and the MEIT Board, this year’s Kootuku Rerenga Tahi award is awarded to Ally Tairi.

The citation that accompanied Ally’s nomination for this award records that in, 1998 Ally volunteered, inspired by the vision, to support the dream which was to become SMM. Early in June 2004 Ally was employed by the Operations Manager, Pim De Monchy. It would be fair to say that Ally learnt on the job. Tasks were many and varied, from administration to transporting track cutter gear along the tracks in a 4WD! To quote Ally, “I was like Pim’s PA without the PA wages.”

In 2012, Ally moved with the team to the Visitor Centre at Tari Road.

Since then, Ally has been the person who has been responsible for coordinating over 18,600 volunteer hours or 9 FTE’s per annum. This is the equivalent of $2,873,000 of wages. Forming 25 teams plus of volunteers.

However Ally’s contribution has been more than that. Ally has been the glue that held our volunteer effort together, a truly inspired kaitiaki.

I now record some reflections from some who have worked with Ally. 

Pim De Monchy. We enjoyed a good relationship and I remember many long days and evenings planning volunteer activities, helping manage volunteer expectations, overseeing tracking card reading, discussing landowner and tangata whenua relationships, and celebrating our wins. She is fun to work with!

Tao Tauroa. From memory, Ally was first employed to compile the list of ownership of individual Māori Land Blocks impacted by the pest-proof fence. I am not quite sure if she did this voluntarily before being employed or not.

I think it is also fitting at this time to remember that in 2017 Ally was awarded a Kiwibank local hero award for the Waikato. This award honoured selfless, optimistic and generous citizens for their service to our community. 

Ally – you have selflessly, lovingly and with true dedication contributed to our project over a very long period of time.

I will take this opportunity to add some of my personal reflections as I have known you for what must be almost the whole time you have been part of this project. I certainly remember your dedicated smiling at the former Alpha Street office. I see the mural beside that office is still on the wall. It brings back great memories of those early days when I pass and see it.

Ally, you have been synonymous with MEIT for me, for the life of this project. You were also a special mentor for my son Ben, when he was a volunteer for one of his university summer breaks. His view of that experience is best summed up by a Facebook post a couple of days into the job – alongside a photo he had taken looking from Pukeatua Peak across Lake Arapuni, he posted “best job in the world, sad about the pay”! He still remembers his time working as part of the MEIT team that way. Your mentoring helped grow a wonderful young man.

Ally, you have been a rare and beautiful contributor to MEIT over a long time. You are a truly deserving recipient of our Kootuku Rerenga Tahi Award.

Thank you for your service.

Read more in Honouring Ally.