Honouring a 'true community man'

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It would be fair to say that Johnson Davis hasn't fallen far from the tree. He was born at Kawakawa Hospital 70 years ago, was raised on a farm near Moerewa, went to Pokapu Primary and then Bay of Islands College.

And now the Bay of Islands Rotary Club has honoured him with a Paul Harris Fellowship, in recognition of the contribution he has made to his community.

Mr Davis' first job, sweeping the mutton floor at AFFCo's Moerewa meat works, lasted three months, followed by stints with the Kawakawa Post Office and the Bay of Islands County Council (rising to assistant treasurer). He later worked as pay clerk for the Taranaki Harbour Board in New Plymouth, where he helped set up the Taranaki Harbour Board Credit Union.

On returning to Kawakawa he and wife Lisa became self-employed, providing computerised book-keeping services from their home for some 10 years. In 1992 he was elected to the local community board, and appointed chairman, followed by election as a district councillor.

He subsequently worked for the council, in debt recovery, until he retired in 2010, but was elected again to the community board.

From the early days he was an active member of several sporting clubs, involvement that included the amalgamation of Kawakawa and United rugby clubs into the United Kawakawa RFC, serving as treasurer for the Club and playing a key role in the fundraising for and building of a new clubhouse. He was also treasurer and president of the Kawakawa Bowling Club, and played a key role in fundraising to build a new pavilion.

He also played a key role in forming the BOI Hospital Action Group, to fight the closure of the hospital, and in 1998 he fought hard to persuade the council to allow Kawakawa's now world- famous Hundertwasser toilets to be built instead of the standard council version.

He was instrumental in the development of Johnson Park, and, with Jim Hannan, in having the war memorial cenotaph and gates moved from the Kawakawa Domain. He supported Pattie Meldrum in having the Hundertwasser-style Kawakawa town sign erected, the additions of a band rotunda and the children's playground all being part of that process.

Mr Davis was a foundation trustee of the Kawakawa Community Trust, which became the catalyst for the rebranding and repositioning of Kawakawa as a tourist destination, leading to the Mainstreet beautification projects. He also persuaded Transit NZ that the red highlighting of the railway line through Kawakawa's main street was a much better option than its proposal for horizontal lining, which would have been offensive to Hundertwasser.

He became involved in what is now the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway in the 1990s, when it was known as the BOI Preservation Society.

"The railway has always been Kawakawa's point of difference, so when the operating licence was cancelled in 2000, and the general consensus was that trains would never again run through Kawakawa, he made a commitment to seeing that that prediction would never happen," the citation continued.

"He was a foundation member of the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway Trust, and is currently its chairman. He has worked tirelessly on the trust, as a volunteer on the train and at working bees to ensure the dream is realised. Johnson's commitment to ensuring the train gets back to Opua has been outstanding. No matter what day or time of day, if you want to find Johnson you head for the railway station."

His other current commitment was the creation of the Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park Charitable Trust, which was committed to building a visitor information centre devoted to honouring Friedensreich Hundertwasser, together with the development of the Kawakawa Hundertwasser Park on land which, once again, Mr Davis had to persuade the council to buy. He was also instrumental in persuading the Hundertwasser Foundation in Vienna not to sell the artist's boat, 'La Gieudecca,' but to leave it in Kawakawa, under lease to the railway trust.

"As if all this is not enough, he is also a current trustee of Ngati Manu on the Te Ruapekapeka Pa Management Trust, which is currently in the process of completing the visual interpretation project at the historic Ruapekapeka Pa," MC Frank Leadley added.

"Johnson Davis is a true community man, and very worthy of a Paul Harris Fellow award."

- Northland Age

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