Thursday, 12 December 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

A Gold Star for Jason Hoyland

Senior Station Officer Jason Hoyland’s 25 years of voluntary service to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade was honoured at a Gold Star celebration on Saturday evening last week. The celebration was held at the Whitianga Fire Station.

In addition to the guests of honour - Jason, his wife, Paulette, and children, Rhys and Meg - the celebration was attended by a number of dignitaries, Jason’s family and friends, and his fellow Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade members.

All the speakers paid tribute to Jason’s commitment to serving the community. They expressed pride not only in his Gold Star achievement, but in the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade as a whole for always professionally and efficiently answering the call of duty. Paulette, Rhys and Meg were also thanked for sharing Jason with the community.

In presenting Jason with his Gold Star, Merv George - a past United Fire Brigade’s Association of New Zealand president and former Chief Fire Officer of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade - said only four per cent of all firefighters in New Zealand qualify for a Gold Star. “For 25 years, Jason has willingly and enthusiastically dropped whatever he has been doing and responded instantly, at any time of day or night, whenever called, to assist anyone in need of help,” he said.

“On top of that, Jason’s attendance at weekly fire brigade trainings and other musters have been exceptional. For a quarter of a century he averaged 95 per cent attendance and for five of those years, his attendance rate was 100 per cent. Quite unbelievable.”

Merv also referred to the fact that Jason, as the owner of Ideal Buildings Coromandel, is self-employed. “Fire and Emergency New Zealand wouldn’t survive without self-employed people like you,” he said, addressing Jason directly. “As you are a good Senior Station Officer and leader at the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade, you are also a good leader in your business. One of your employees remarked to me that you are fantastic to work for and he loves being in your team. A fantastic comment to you and your leadership style.”

Throughout the evening, there was reference to Jason’s sense of humour and his ability to make people around him laugh. Chief Fire Officer of the Whitanga Volunteer Fire Brigade, Roly Chaney, referred in his speech to a time Jason “saved his life.” It was during a hose running competition in Queenstown in 1995. Roly went to bed early, while Jason and a firefighter friend went out for a night on the town. Roly woke in the early hours of the morning when he heard Jason said, “Water on,” just before his bed was doused in water. “Apparently my bed was on fire and Jason and his mate put it out just in time,” Roly said.

Roly also spoke about a hose running competition in Auckland in 2000 where Jason was part of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade “B-team.” In order to improve their chances of success, the team adopted a head of lettuce, named Curly, as their mascot. Curly wasn’t able to turn the team’s fortunes around and was summarily disposed of in trash can. As it turned out the disposal effort wasn’t entirely successful as Curly proudly reappeared, with his son nonetheless, on Saturday evening.

Turning more serious, Roly spoke about Jason’s achievements as a firefighter. “Jason joined the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1994,” he said. “He was our Firefighter of the Year in 2007 and 2010. He was our training officer for a number of years. He also has the knack of being in charge of all the large scrub fires we are being called to, the largest being the Comers Road fire south of Whitianga in 2017. It was a fire that took well over 48 hours to put out and was still burning underground for several weeks.

“Jason was also part of our brigade team who crewed the first Coastguard vessel in Whitianga, he participated in hose running competitions from 1994 to 2002 and was part of our original road crash rescue team that was formed in 2000. He competed in road crash rescue challenges as part of the team until 2005.

“If that wasn’t enough, Jason competed in several firefighter combat challenges and conquered the Firefighter Sky Tower Stair Challenge more than once.”

Roly concluded his speech by awarding Jason with a life membership of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade.

When it was his opportunity to say a few words, Jason humbly thanked Paulette, Rhys and Meg for their support over the years, and the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade members for putting his Gold Star celebration together. “I’ve been looking forward to this evening for a long time,” he said. “I’m overwhelmed to see what my fellow brigade members have done for me and my family tonight. I still enjoy being a firefighter, our trainings, our banter and the camaraderie we all share.”

The United Fire Brigade’s Association of New Zealand was formed 141 years ago. Since then, just more than 8,000 Gold Stars have been presented to firefighters across New Zealand. Jason’s Gold Star is number 8,009. Jason is the 21st member of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade to have received a Gold Star. Of those recipients, 10 (Jason included) are still in active service in the brigade.

Pictured: Senior Station Officer Jason Hoyland of the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade during his Gold Star celebration on Saturday evening last week. With Jason are his wife, Paulette, and children, Rhys and Meg. Rhys is wearing Jason’s Five Year Service Medal (with two-year service bars), which has been replaced by his Gold Star. Paulette is wearing a medal and several badges that have been presented to her as well.

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