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Volunteer of the Year Awards

  • 21 May 19

The 2019 New Zealand Rowing Association (NZRA) AGM was held on Saturday, 18th May in Wellington.

Rowing NZ Chairman Gerry Dwyer was proud to present the following volunteer of the year awards.

Citations were prepared by each recipient's rowing club or association.


New Zealand Secondary Schools’ Rowing Association is proud to nominate Natalie Matheson for the Rowing NZ Volunteer Recognition Award.

Natalie became involved with coaching Columba College crews in 2013 and is still fully involved with the school six years later. During that time her crews have won numerous medals at regional and national levels. She was also involved in establishing Columba College Rowing as an independent club in their own clubhouse on Otago Harbour. The club is now well set up and participates in all local and regional regattas.

For the last two years Natalie has been chair of Otago Secondary Schools’ Rowing Association. The association, which was established in 1954, gives a voice to the local schools on Otago Rowing Association as well as running two or three school-only regattas on Otago Harbour each season.

After serving on the Otago Rowing Association committee for several years, Natalie has taken on the position of vice-president and is making an excellent contribution to the development of rowing in the region and beyond.

In recognition of her skills, Natalie was invited to be the 2018 South Island U18 selector and coach of women’s sweep crews, and the 2019 South Island U18 selector.

At national level Natalie was elected to the classification committee by Otago Rowing Association and was then invited by Rowing NZ onto the domestic committee.

Otago Secondary Schools’ Rowing Association is fortunate to have a volunteer who continues to coach at grassroots level, who is fully involved in regional administration, and who makes a valued contribution on the domestic committee of Rowing NZ.


When a young Stephanie Weston advised her father, Jemal, that she was going to become a rower, Jemal and his wife Diane, were supportive of Stephanie’s choice and quickly involved themselves in supporting the Union Boat Club. The following year Jemal was elected onto the committee of the Club and is presently the club President.

In 2015 Whanganui was savaged by a very severe flood causing extensive damage to all rowing infrastructure in the river city. Jemal orchestrated repairs to the Union Boat Club and the club was quickly up and operational again, with much improved facilities.

Jemal has many skills, among which are great mechanical skills and the ability to repair and service small motors. As a consequence of his input the Union Boat Club motorboats are now in a constant state of readiness, as are the club’s boat trailers, and many other facilities about the club. He has also coordinated funding applications to realise the purchase of both safety and coaching resources.

It was recognised by others that Jemal’s varied skills made him an ideal candidate for Race Regatta Official training. Given his background skills Jemal proved an asset in that role and very quickly qualified as a fully-fledged race regatta official. Jemal has officiated at regattas in the Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Whanganui, and at Twizel. His Race Regatta Official qualification and his level of skill in those roles is such that he is now frequently filling leadership roles at those regattas.

Jemal was elected as a Union Boat Club delegate to the Whanganui Rowing Association. Rather than shifting focus from one organisation to the other, Jemal merely added to his already significant workload in assuming considerable management responsibility for all Whanganui Regattas as well as maintaining his multiple roles in the Union Boat Club.

As a consequence of Jemal’s commitment to our sport, which his daughter conned him into joining, he has provided substantial benefit to the Union Boat Club, the Whanganui Rowing Association, to the New Zealand Regatta Race Officials organisation and thus to our whole rowing community. The Whanganui Rowing Association have no hesitation in commending Jemal Weston as our Volunteer of the year.


Jared coached in Wellington for Victoria University and Samuel Marsden Collegiate and was involved in the Wellington Rowing Association in the early 2000s. He left Wellington for Australia and returned in 2015 to coach at Onslow College. He has been an active coach and administrator in Wellington since returning to the region.

Jared was elected as Wellington Rowing Club’s vice-club captain in 2016 and continues in this voluntary role to date.

Jared is also heavily involved in Onslow College Rowing, where his role encompasses coaching and managing the logistics of the squad.

Beyond his club and school commitments, Jared re-joined Wellington Rowing Association Board in June 2016 as an elected director. He continues in this role to date and has made a significant contribution to the association since re-joining the board.

Jared has taken a lead role in coach development in the Wellington region:

  • He is a Rowing NZ-appointed coach developer and takes responsibility for organising all Rowing NZ coach development modules in Wellington.
  • For the last two years he has organised an annual regional coach development conference for the region’s coaches which has been well attended and well received.
  • This year he has taken a lead role in organising the Row for Gold programme with Sport Wellington and Central RPC.

Jared is the president of Wellington Secondary Schools’ Rowing Association, which is one of the most active in New Zealand. He was involved in the organisation of Wellington sending a squad to the Mainland Interprovincial Championships in 2018, and this year he is also organising the inaugural Wellington Masters Championships, to be held on the Ruamahanga River.

Rowing in New Zealand is successful thanks to volunteers like Jared and we would like to be able to show our appreciation for his outstanding service. Wellington Rowing Club and association are hugely grateful to Jared for everything he does, and we take great pleasure in recommending him for this award.


Harvey first got involved with rowing some 20-odd years ago through a corporate rowing team with ECNZ at Huntly Power station. Harvey enjoyed rowing and joined the Hamilton Rowing Club as a masters rower.

She spent several years as secretary for Hamilton Rowing Club.

When her daughter Courtenay started rowing for Hillcrest High School, Harvey became involved in the parent committee and took the position of chairperson in her second year. As the programme grew there was a need for coaching and she took up the challenge in addition to the committee roles that she had.

When Waikato Rowing Association couldn’t find a nomination for the position of secretary, Harvey accepted a nomination from the floor and has held this position for three years.

In the early 2000s, Waikato Rowing Association launched a junior development winter rowing programme and ran nine camps a year over the winter months over a period of 10 years.

Harvey became involved in Karapiro Rowing where she ran the coxswain weighing and assisted as boat marshal for nearly 10 years.

In 2015 it was decided to re-establish the winter camps again and Harvey, along with Don Baron, was pivotal in making this happen. For the last four years Harvey has handled all the recruitment, administration and management of these camps which are held every fortnight throughout the winter for 12 weeks.

When the camps were on, Harvey would be the person at the camp at 4:00pm on the Friday to welcome the children and meet the parents. She looked after the crew planning for the coaches, the timetabling, and all the typing of coaches’ notes after each training session, so that notes were available to be emailed to children and parents. This was a 6am to 10pm job during each camp day.

The work that Harvey has put into these camps for Waikato Rowing Association in the last twelve months makes her a deserving candidate for Waikato Rowing Association Volunteer of the Year.


For several years Maude O’Connell had a dream to start a rowing club in Cromwell, and in 2007 that dream became a reality. After canvassing a small group of parents, Cromwell College Rowing was established.

Over the next couple of years, as interest in the sport and the number of school-age rowers grew, Cromwell College Rowing became Cromwell Rowing Club Inc – and the rest is history!

Right from the first meeting Maude has been the backbone of rowing in Cromwell. She has been coach, club captain, fundraising coordinator, funding officer, mentor, camp mother – no role within the growing club has not had Maude’s touch.

The club started with nothing, borrowing boats from Dunstan Rowing Club, organising temporary storage, coaching the first crew of six boys – all under her guidance and leadership. The 2018/19 season saw club numbers rise to 25 college-age rowers from novice through to third-year rowers, and all crews had a successful season at all the South Island regattas and Aon Maadi Cup.

Last season Maude was one of the coaches for the Central Otago Winter Athlete Development Programme, a three-month programme to prepare rowers for the summer season, run under the umbrella of Otago Rowing Association. She has also been successful with several funding grants to help establish and grow the plant and equipment that Cromwell Rowing Club is proud to own.

Along with the school-age rowers, Cromwell Rowing Club has a small but strong group of master’s rowers, and Maude is leading the way there too. She is a strong and confident rower and has been very successful on the water herself, winning several medals at masters’ regattas.

Otago Rowing Association is very fortunate to have Maude O’Connell as a volunteer. She continues to coach at grassroots level, to be fully involved in club administration and development, as well as finding time to compete as a successful master’s rower.

To Maude and Cromwell Rowing Club, a Volunteer of the Year award recognises Maude's dedication to the sport and her success in establishing a rowing club in a small rural community.


Mark originally joined Wairau Rowing Club in the early 1980s as an athlete and served on the committee and as club captain. In 2009 Mark returned to Marlborough as the development coach for Central RPC and carried out a multitude of voluntary tasks at the club, as well as serving on Marlborough Rowing Association.

He has assisted at many fundraising activities including the annual Corporate Rowing Challenge and the Marlborough Champs regattas. Mark has been the club treasurer and club captain for many years and retains both these roles to this day.

He believes rowers should follow their dreams, strive to improve and develop as much as possible. He has supported those moving away from home for the first time, and voluntarily opened his home to accommodate and assist rowers in their early seasons at Wairau and Central RPC.

Mark has encouraged rowing squads from Wellington and Canterbury to share the facilities at Wairau and is always willing to assist them to make the most of their training camps in Blenheim.

He has served as both a North and South Island U18 selector. He has coached and managed interprovincial teams and North Island U18 crews and was a coach of the 2013 Youth Olympic rowing team.

Until recently Mark was a rowing coach educator and facilitator, often giving his time and efforts voluntarily to assist many coaches and clubs throughout the region.

Last year his assistance at the South Island Masters Regatta in Picton was rewarded with the Terry Noonan Trophy for Volunteers.

Within the Wairau Club Mark has coached various squads including the Marlborough Girls’ College and club crews. Many have had successful seasons including this year where every one of his club athletes returned from the New Zealand Champs with a medal.

This season Mark will remain involved in both Marlborough Rowing Association and Wairau Rowing Club assisting where and when he can.

For 2019 we are pleased to recognise Mark James as the Marlborough Rowing Association volunteer of the year.


Hugh Monro has been called a few things in his time. “Hugh” was apparently quite tricky over the phone, so he’s used to being called a number of unusual names. As such, he’s relieved, as a long-time member of the Taupo Rowing Club, to be currently called “Club Captain”. Drawn to the TRC by an article in the local paper back in 2004, Hugh has seen the club’s ups and downs and people come and go. Hugh is the only person left in the club from those days.

In a small club particularly, the role’s become quite blurred and in the manner of all good sorts, his talents and enthusiasm, cover a wide range of activities. From in the dark weather calls while on his way to work, to clocking up a 120 k’s to check the TRC Tokaanu storage shed at the other end of the lake. This also includes rowing when he can, coaching, sizzling sausages, parking cars, stacking wood and picking up rubbish. He complains little, swears hardly ever and takes an, all hands to the pump approach for needing, fixing, doing, turning up and being present.

His list is long. He’s also a Karapiro Rowing volunteer, so in regatta season, he often set’s his alarm at 4 am to head north, mainly umpire boat driving but willing to do anything. Never one to beat his own drum, Hugh keeps that all pretty quiet and just gets on with it. Needless to say, he’s also involved in the masters and student training programmes, carries out the maintenance on the boats and attends to miscellaneous tasks at the boat pen. Boat loading, trailer driving, regatta sorting, whatever needs doing, Hugh is the man. Oh yes, and attending committee meetings. He does that too.

For the past 15 years, Hugh’s enthusiasm, dedication and perseverance have been unfailing. For those of you unfamiliar with the Taupo Rowing Club, the current facilities are modest. Karapiro and Taupo have the Waikato in common but not much else. The 3 by 10 m lakeside area, just near the mouth of the river, next to the Taupo Yacht Club building, is a no frills offering. There is no boat shed, just the luxurious ex hockey turf for flooring and a wire mesh fence protecting the boats. Two seasons ago, Hugh organised and built a three-sided lean-to at one end, to store the blades. Apart from this, there is no roof. No running water. No toilets. You get the picture. You could say TRC members are a hardy bunch. The club’s been in and out of recess over the years. From four members at one stage, to well over half way to 40 members today.

So, it comes down to being totally blown away on a good day, out there on the lake. When, after all this time, you still want to take photos, be encouraging and marvel at the amazing water and views in a mild northerly, easterly or westerly. Knowing there’s no rowing in a southerly. 40 years on, sitting in the Wanganui Collegiate number two seat in the winning 1977 Maadi Cup boat, you know rowing is in Hugh Monro’s blood. And in some ways today, we’re not talking about the tasks, or even the years, in recognising our rowing volunteers, it’s as much about the heart. About the attitude, willingness and enthusiasm. Hugh has this in spades.

We thank you Rowing New Zealand, for recognising him. We thank BOPRA for nominating him and thank you especially from all of us at the TRC. We congratulate Hugh as a lifelong rower and a recognised and respected volunteer. Thank you, Hugh.


Paul O’Brien followed his older brother into the Canterbury Rowing Club in 1958, rowing novice, and then for some years in the lightweight and maiden/intermediate classes.

After serving as the club’s secretary he moved to Wellington in the early 1970s where he linked up with Star Boating Club, representing them in regatta crews. He also held office in that club, in Wellington Rowing Association, and was assistant secretary of New Zealand Rowing Association from 1981 to 1984 before returning to Christchurch – where he was immediately re-appointed secretary of his old club.

Since then Paul has continued to serve rowing, unobtrusively, loyally and faithfully, in many capacities, but especially as a delegate on Canterbury Rowing Associations’ management committee. This award recognises over 60 years of continuous service to the sport, given freely and voluntarily throughout and without thought of recognition or reward.


Jolene has currently completed three years of service to the sport of rowing, with her current role being secretary of the Auckland Grammar Rowing Club parents’ committee.

Jolene has attended all committee meetings this season and takes an active role in all organisational and administrative duties to help the club and its young male members thrive. She has been instrumental in aiding the club in its fundraising efforts, helping to raise in excess of $30k this season.

Jolene’s son rows for Auckland Grammar and is able to do so through the club’s scholarship programme, which offers financial assistance to those in need to make sure everyone at the school has the opportunity to row. Jolene has taken up her volunteer role so she may continue to support her son at Karapiro with the club’s help. Her tireless hours of voluntary work act as her way of giving back to the rowing community. It is estimated that Jolene has contributed in excess of 300 hours of work over the 2018–19 season.

The club would not have been successful this year without the help of this incredible woman, and we believe that although she may not like being presented with anything, this award will mean the world to her.