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Recognition for cyclone saviours

Published: 8 September 2023

Last Updated: 10 September 2023

Cyclone Gabrielle Awards Recipients

Twenty-eight individuals and seven organisations hailed as “life savers”, “guardian angels” and “heroes” are being honoured for the ways in which they helped others during and after Cyclone Gabrielle.
Napier City Council is hosting the Cyclone Gabrielle Recognition Awards this week after receiving close to 80 nominations.
Mayor Kirsten Wise said nominators expressed their gratitude in a number of ways in the statements they provided to Council.
“In many cases, the people the recipients helped were strangers,” Mayor Wise explained. “Nominators have shared incredible stories of rescue, bravery, hard mahi, care and selfless support.”
“We have shared some tough times this year as individuals and neighbourhoods, as a city and as a region. These awards are a chance to celebrate and thank people who have shown true leadership, sacrifice and service, lightening the load and bringing some joy and relief to so many others,” says Mayor Wise.
The Awards ceremony takes place from 5pm Thursday 7 September at the Napier War Memorial Centre. Brief information about the recipients is listed below. 


Keith Bartleet

Hugh Mackay

The neighbours used a jet boat to rescue several people in the Esk Valley in the early hours of 14 February.

Claire Connor

Claire cooked and distributed meals for many weeks, and coordinated volunteers and items for the needy despite having flooding damage to her own home and familly farm.

Mary Danielson

Mary offered refreshments, made deliveries, organised fundraisers and opened her business premises, The Puketapu, to locals, all while her business was severely damaged.

Troy Duncan

Troy alerted many people in the Pakowhai area to danger, helping to rescue people and stock over many hours on 14 February.

Peter Eden

Peter, Moteo Marae chair, played a key role in coordinating the response and recovery efforts for Moteo, Puketapu, Waiohiki and other communities.

Brenda Ferguson

Brenda, a member of Tihei Mauri Ora, provided oustanding support and leadership during the response and recovery phase for many Hawke’s Bay communities.

Bill Henderson

Gabriella Henderson

Bill and Gabriella, from Waiohiki, sheltered 40-plus people in their home, and animals, looking after and supporting many long after the initital danger period had passed.

Michael Helliwell

Michael, a member of Land, Search & Rescue, with his wife Lyn, spent 14 February and several days afterwards checking houses and vehicles, including in Esk Valley, and conducting rescues.

Cathy Herries

Julie King

Cathy and Julie spent months helping in Puketapu, Eskdale, Brookfields and Eskdale, offering both physical and emotional support, and inspiring others to volunteer.

Rose Hiha

Rose, Petane Marae chair, was an outstanding supporter for her community, from getting stuck in to the clean-up, to ensuring people had the right information.

Sean Hughes

Sean, from Esk Valley, prepped and served food in Napier, drove people assisting older folks, and was part of the team which designed T-shirts that raised $35,000 for cyclone affected communities.

Amelia Kaui

Amelia, Hukarere Girls College boarding hostel manager, organised the school’s evacuation from the Esk Valley site, saving the lives of 50-plus students and staff.

Damien Kelly

Damien, from Wellington, towed a caravan loaded with supplies from the capital to Napier, and was involved in rescues.

Rikki Kihi

Ricki, involved in the jet boat rescue of more than 50 people in the Esk Valley, helped with the clean-up for weeks afterwards, and became a great advocate for mental health. 

Greg Miller

Greg, Valley D’Vine restaurateur, offered shelter to Esk Valley locals during the response, later becoming the go to guy for coordinating counselling, and provisions.

Greg Morice

Lorna Morice

Greg and Lorna, from Dartmoor Valley, rescued families and animals, offered shelter at their hilltop property, and ensured the sick and vulnerable were flown out the next day. 

Mohinder Nagra

Mohinder, Bollywood Stars Napier owner, was one of the first people to come forward and help feed people, ensuring hundreds of free meals were served to the needy.

Neeracha (Neela Neela) Rattanaworametha

Neeracha provided hundreds of meals daily since the cyclone, inspiring an army of volunteers who helped cook, pack and deliver those meals.

Rikki Reed Davis

Rikki was part of a road crew which warned people on SH5, spent hours clinging to a tree waiting for rescue, helped with the clean-up, and became a great advocate for mental health.

Nancye Rewi

Nancye founded the Hawke’s Bay Toy Drive, coordinating donated kai and toy packs all over the region, helping Neela Neela in her spare time.

Sammie-Jo Smaling

Sammie-Jo cooked and delivered meals to many, baked hundreds of cupcakes for volunteers, and opened her home for people to have quiet time, and children to play.

Todd Smith

Todd, from Whirinaki, saved the lives of many residents and their pets, and used his plumbing skills to keep the community running when no one had mains power or running water.

Richard Stevenson

Richard used his own vehicle to get essential supplies, news and updates to and from communities on SH5, at considerable personal risk.

Quent and Mel Swayn

Quent and Mel were a driving force behind the Bay View community hub, coordinating volunteers and resources, supporting those who needed advice and care.

Mike Teddy

Mike got stuck into helping his community, clearing roads, driveways and houses, volunteering himself, his staff and use of his equipment.

Lee Walmsley

Lee used a boat then a truck to rescue many people on Links Road, around Waiohiki, Omarunui and surround areas, risking his own life to evacuate others.



Bay View Fire Brigade

The brigade evacuated and rescued people in the Esk Valley and surrounding areas, providing support for weeks afterwards.

Cyclone Hawke’s Bay Help

This Facebook group, was a successful hub for connecting people who needed help with volunteers, supporting the flow of resources and information.

Equippers Church

This Tamatea church was a civil defence evacuation centre, allowing people to stay until it was safe for them to return home, providing three meals daily and amazing hospitality.

Kings House Church

This Meeanee Church was a lifeline for hundreds of people, including 300-plus RSE workers, providing meals, welfare support and shelter to many.

Napier RDA

This organisation looked after horses and livestock for months after the cyclone, operating from Meeanee Speedway, as well as organising helicopter and plane drops.

Rapid Relief Team

The team fed hundreds and helped deliver resources to isolated communities, continuing to support people well after the initial response period had ended.

Re-Source HB

This organisation’s volunteers set up a distribution hub at Hastings Racecourse, ensuring vital equipment and resources – an estimated 100,000 items - got to the people who needed them the most.

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