Rodney Wilson

Rodney Wilson

Citation Speech for Rodney Wilson

Rodney Wilson personifies what is great about Kimbolton. He’s lived there his whole life there, bar a few years boarding at Palmerston North Boys High School. And his imprint on Kimbolton Village is there for all to see.

Rodney was born in 1947 and he lives on the family farm that was passed on to him by his father, Eric. He was a farmer until 15 years ago when his son Scott took over the operation. But far from being a retiree, he’s been getting stuck into more community work.

It would be hard to avoid all the work that Rodney has done for the Kimbolton Community, he’s done pretty much every role or has been on every committee that there is. For example, he’s been a member and volunteer with the likes of Apiti Young Farmers, Oroua Rugby Club, Kimbolton Community Committee, Destination Manawatu and the Regional Council Tourism Advisory Committee. And that to only just name a few of the many community organisations that Rodney has been associated with over the years. He was also a Justice of the Peace. When you look at what Rodney has achieved over the years, it’s amazing to see and it makes you wonder how he had the time to do it all.

He has been instrumental in a number of community initiatives such as the founding of the Kimbolton Sculpture Festival, along with Tony Waugh. He helped to organise the Kimbolton School and District Centennial and 125th celebrations in 1989 and 2014, working as the secretary. The Country Fare has now been running for 12 years and is one of the biggest events that Kimbolton hosts. But where Rodney’s work is seen every day is in Kimbolton Village centre itself, as he oversaw the beautification and upgrade of the village centre. It was a long project to get the village to where it is now, but the rewards are there for everyone to enjoy and Rodney’s stewardship of the community plan is widely appreciated by the people of Kimbolton. He helped their vision become a reality.

What Rodney, and his wife Faith, are most well-known for is being the owners of Cross Hill Gardens. They have developed a sizeable chunk of bare farmland into the beautiful gardens that they are today, that have been enjoyed by tourists since 1969. Cross Hills became the first privately owned garden that opened to the public in New Zealand and in it’s heyday, nearly 12,000 people would visit Cross Hills a year. This ties in nicely to another one of Rodney’s legacies. The development of Manawatu and Rangitikei districts as a tourist destination.

Rodney’s passion for gardening was installed in him by his father and he has continued on the legacy, with a particular interest in Rhododendron’s. Both he and Faith have imported plants for the garden but also have had their flowers displayed at festivals around the world, including Garden by the Bay in Singapore, putting Manawatu, and more specifically Kimbolton, on the global map at one of the most prestigious gardening events.

As was stated in his nomination letter, Rodney has always volunteered his time and labour when necessary to get the job done, often supplying materials for projects at his own expense and exploring the least cost options for the community to complete a project.

Rodney has always been an innovative farmer and businessman, often developing unique and practical solutions to everyday farming and gardening challenges and often applying his skills to the many community projects that he has been involved with. Over the years he has employed many local members of the community to work in the garden, garden café and on the farm and has always been known as a fair and respected employer.

When asked what it means to him to be recognised by his own community for this honour he said “It’s the next best thing to a knighthood”. Slightly tongue in cheek, but it also just shows how much reciprocal respect and love there is between Rodney and the people of Kimbolton.