Sea lover citizen of the year
By LINDA SHACKELFORD • Howick and Botany District Times • Feature November 5, 2003
LONG-TIME community volunteer Basil Irwin is the 2003 Howick Citizen of the Year.
Mr Irwin, a humble recipient, was recognised for 49 years of volunteer work and involvement in local sea and coastal groups.
Mayor Sir Barry Curtis presented the 73-year-old with the award in the presence of family, friends and community board members at an official ceremony on Tuesday night (November 4).
Mr Irwin is familiar to many for his 15-year dedication to the Howick Volunteer Coastguard (HVC), Sea Scouts and community education programmes. He told the Times he was shocked to hear he had been selected, after being nominated by HVC president Paul Newman early last month. “I am very honoured because there are many other people who I can think of who may be worthy of that sort of recognition,” he said.
Mr Irwin met his wife Ngaire through the scout movement and they have two children and three grandchildren. He said his wife has been a huge support to him over the years and realises his passion for the sea. “We would have port holes for windows if I let him,” laughed his wife.
Mr Irwin has taken an active role in boat and administration duties at the HVC, stands as executive officer and has been on-call 24-7. He holds a Masters qualification for the rescue vessel and is the HVC unit co-ordinator ensuring correct planning and protocols are met. He runs boat-master classes and has organised day skipper classes and visits for local schools to get the message of water safety across. Mr Newman said he has taken responsibility for all the new members of the club recently and has attended their training requirements and crew placements. He has also visited Manukau Institute of Technology’s ESOL classes to teach them about safety and the coastguard.
Howick Community Board chairperson Alan La Roche said there were five nominees this year and Mr Irwin was the worthy recipient because of his heavy involvement in the community over many years. “He’s one of those guys who is always in the background working away and it’s time that someone acknowledged his work,” said Mr La Roche.
Ireland-born Mr Irwin moved to New Zealand in 1954 and established himself in Howick where he taught for a short time at Howick District High School (now Howick Intermediate), before taking on the role as assistant manager of flight operations at Air New Zealand.
He founded the Howick Sea Scouts in 1960 and was actively involved as a district scout leader until 1980 and as an advisor until 1985. He retired in 1986, making more time for volunteer work and began to co-ordinate Neighbourhood Support in his area.
Two months ago he had a heart attack and subsequently a valve replacement, making him step back and spend less time carrying out his duties at the HVC. Although he is recovering steadily, he will now make more time for his other love – painting.