Michael Banner

Michael Banner

Citation Speech for Michael Banner

Thirty seven years is a long time to dedicate to anything, but spending that amount of time as a volunteer firefighter is something else. Considering that less than 5 percent of fire fighters have achieved 25 years’ of service in New Zealand, this really puts Michael Banner’s service in perspective.

Described by Paul Hughes in the nomination form as being “very level headed in a large range of testing situations,” Michael would have to be, having served as the Chief Fire Officer of the Halcombe Volunteer Fire Brigade since 1997. He’s a humble man and reluctant to talk about his own achievements, but plenty of others are more than happy to sing his praises for the work that he has done.

Mitchell Brown, Area Manager of Fire Emergency New Zealand says that Michael’s leadership was instrumental in providing a sense of calm during the February 2004 floods and the Halcombe community took comfort in the efforts of the brigade in very difficult circumstances.

Mitchell goes on to say that Mike was officer in charge and was key to restricting the damage and assisting in the recovery of the Taumata O Te Ra marae after the devastating fire in 2011. He again showed his level headedness and in depth understanding of what the community valued by directing his crew to save the main meeting house. Since then, he and the marae kaumatua, George Kereama, have built a strong community relationship which has benefited all for the rebirth of the marae in the Halcombe community.

Michael is also well known locally for his sheep and beef farm, from which he took a ten year break from to drive trucks when there was a downturn in the industry. He eventually returned to farming and has been instrumental in the Stanway Halcombe Rural Water Scheme. In 2015, he became chairperson of the scheme and set about making improvements such as communication between users of the scheme and the committee, as well as investment in the infrastructure and future proofing for years to come.

While he’s modest about his involvement in the scheme, many of the supporting letters point to Michael’s involvement as being one of the reasons that it exists and has continued to flourish. His canvassing of local property owners was important in getting community buy in. Jeanette Henderson says that “you’d think after almost 40 years Mike would be sick of the scheme but he remains passionate to see it continue as the successful and important community asset that it is”.

Michael is clearly a well-respected member of the Halcombe community. His selflessness and generosity is well recognised and his ability to galvanise a team is evident in his work with the fire brigade. Perhaps his best qualities are summed up once again by Paul Hughes, who says that “there are numerous examples where Mike has seen the best in people who have faced adversity and by Mike giving them a chance, he has built up a massive amount of confidence within their personal circumstances and changed their lives for the better.”