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A hero of our own

Iris pictured receiving her certificate as a semi-finalist in the Senior New Zealander of the Year

When she gave up a day's work per week in order to volunteer, Iris Donoghue could never have imagined that 30 years later she would be nominated to become a Kiwibank Local Hero. Heroes are acknowledged for their service to the community, and one nominee goes on to become New Zealander of the Year. For Iris, the Local Hero award came from out of the blue, "I got a letter in the post to say that I would be receiving a medal."

A Ranfurly resident who confesses to "enjoying all the usual things" - reading, time on the computer, photography and spending time with her grandchildren - Iris continues to volunteer her time, up to 20 hours per week, focussing on her passion for people and the environment. Over the years she has worked tirelessly; she was the founding chair of Tag Out Trust, a not-for-profit charitable trust dedicated to removing graffiti Auckland-wide. "I'm passionate about graffiti and have been for many years," says Iris.

The Trust also provides a Community Service programme for at risk youth, providing the support and framework to right wrongdoings.

Then there's her involvement with the Te Whau Pathway, an ambitious project linking reserves and roads along the western edge of the Whau River. It will provide safe walking and cycling connections between residential areas and schools, and provide an important link to the North-Western cycleway. Iris launched and currently chairs the Whau Coastal Walkway Environment Trust, the community arm of the partnership. "We consult with the community to get their input into what's happening. It's been very exciting recently as Auckland Transport has come to the party," she says.

Furthermore, Iris has helped resurrect the iconic Keep New Zealand Beautiful and Be A Tidy Kiwi brands. "It began 25 years ago with 'Keep Waitakere Beautiful' - we wanted to do for litter what we did for graffiti. We've now developed new branding and got funding, and we're ready to relaunch 'Be A Tidy Kiwi'."

Humble, yet quite rightly pleased with all that has been achieved over the years, Iris's crowning glory came in 2005 with two nominations for Queen's Honour List. "I was nominated for my work in the community and in the environment. Really it's just part of what I do and who I am, but it's nice to be acknowledged."

Iris says that Ranfurly has a strong feeling of community which she really enjoys. "The people here are absolutely delightful."

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