Volunteering a vocation

Love for community drives New Year Honours duo

When the latest round of New Year Honours was announced, there were two Taupo¯ locals who were recognised for years of dedication to their community. Hazel Georgantis received a Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community and Dr Doug Wilson was ma






Hazel Georgantis — Queen’s Service Medal Taupo¯ ’s Hazel Georgantis has long believed volunteers play a key role in the strength of a community. In this respect, she has spent her life leading by example. She moved to Taupo¯ when she retired in 1991 and has since devoted her time to supporting community organisations. She has provided pastoral support to parishioners as a vicar’s wife since the 1950s and has been involved with St Andrews Anglican Church in Taupo¯, organising garden walks, parish dinners and fundraising. She has volunteered as a hospital chaplain at Taupo¯ Hospital since 2005, stepping in while there was no permanent paid chaplain, supporting patients and wha¯nau during difficult circumstances. She continues to support the new paid chaplain and provides cover on a voluntary basis. Hazel has been a committee member of Creative Clay Group Taupo¯ since 1992 and is a life member. She was chairwoman for several years and helped grow club membership and drive club activities. She was on the committee that organised and ran the National Potters Convention in Taupo¯ , as well as numerous pottery exhibitions. She is a registered potter and has exhibited her works regularly. She has mentored and helped teach new potters, both adults and children, including people with disabilities. She is a life member of Active Arts Taupo¯ and has volunteered one day a week at Taupo¯ Interchurch Welfare Opportunity Shop for 30 years and was a member of the funding allocation committee for 10 years. Hazel says making the New Year Honours list was a big surprise. “About two months ago, they wrote a letter and I must admit I had a few tears. It was completely out of the blue and I think there are a lot of people in Taupo¯ who do a lot more than I do. “It was still a thrill to get it. [Since it was announced publicly] I’ve had very good reactions, there’s a few cards that have come and my daughter put on some bubbles and nibbles on New Year’s Day.” She was excited to receive letters from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy congratulating her on the honour. Hazel says she married a vicar at 22, which is when her work in the community truly began, and she has not looked back since. “Our first parish was on the West Coast of the South Island, in a small community, where we were left to sink or swim. Community is very important in a place like that.” Upon retirement in 1991, she moved to Taupo¯ to be closer to her children, but her thirst for community involvement did not waver. “I’ve always been involved. I think just helping people is the main thing and, for my recreation, I really enjoy my pottery, that’s my break. “I think it’s hugely important [to be involved in the community]. I think if everyone got involved and everyone did a little bit — I don’t think the country would be run without all the volunteers. “The more you put into something, the more you get out of it.” She has taken great joy in teaching pottery to others and helping them explore a new passion. “We’ve got one or two now who it’s their job. I’m a wheel worker, I enjoy being on the wheel, it’s therapeutic and it’s nice to have a piece of mud which in 10 minutes or a quarter of an hour you’ve made a bowl or something out of it.” Now 89, Hazel has no intention of slowing down. “I’ve got another year to go until I’m 90 so I think I can keep going.” ■ Dr Doug Wilson — New Zealand Order of Merit While many slow down once they hit retirement age, Taupo¯’s Dr Doug Wilson has dedicated his time to encouraging and teaching others about ageing well. His efforts saw him made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the New Year Honours. “I found out a few weeks ago when I got a letter with prestigious writing along the top from the Government. That was followed up with nice letters of congratulations from the Prime Minister and Governor-General. “For an old coot like myself to receive communication from such august authorities was in fact great fun.” Doug is a medical researcher, author and leading expert in the field of ageing. He has published several children’s books and two non-fiction books on ageing titled Ageing for Beginners and Ageing Well (2021), encouraging positive intergenerational approaches and advocating for the older generation to be proactive about their health and finances. He has supported and advocated for the rights of seniors by informing and educating as a member of the Clinical Governance Committee for Ryman Healthcare, presenting and engaging with the public. He has written regular blogs for Age Concern New Zealand and was a recent keynote speaker at the Vision for Ageing in Aotearoa conference. He had produced his own podcast series and regularly features on Radio New Zealand’s Saturday morning show. He has been an active member of the Age Friendly Steering Group since 2020 with the Taupo¯ District Council, a World Health Organisation programme on age-friendly cities. He has worked within the pharmaceutical industry globally in London, the United States and Europe, becoming global head of medical research for a major German company. He is also a board member of AFT Pharmaceuticals and was named the Ryman Healthcare New Zealander of the Year in 2021. The 84-year-old says receiving the New Year Honour suggests people in the community respect what he has done, which is a nice feeling. “I come from a long-lived family, my mother died at 97 and my father died three weeks short of 100. So I’m assuming I’ve inherited those genes, meaning I face a longer life than many other people. “That being so, and with my background, I wanted to pursue the academic and applied side of ageing, to get messages for myself and to pass on to others about the optimal way to approach the ageing process. “The idea of spreading messaging reverberates well with me because I’ve been a writer and enjoyed it, therefore to encapsulate relevant information into bite-sized pieces people can understand is in fact a lovely challenge, which I enjoy.” While Parkinson’s disease has slowed Doug down a little physically, he intends to continue contributing for as long as he is able. “I’m still very passionate about it. The Parkinson’s has developed in the last 18 months or so which was a bit of a shock as I thought I was an invulnerable puppy. “That has made me a little less stable walking around which makes things a little unsatisfactory. It gives you a fresh look on life because Parkinson’s is a progressive condition for which we have no treatment. “But I look around and see so many people who have their later life governed by poor health, cancer, diseases, dementia — so I am lucky to have something that, for the time being, I can manage.”