Waipā’s new seven of the best 

Waipā has acknowledged another seven of its finest – including six from Te Awamutu.

The latest inductees to the Te Awamutu Walk of Fame announced this week are father and son wrestlers Brian and Shane Stannett, equestrian cross-country course designer John Nicholson, axeman Jason Wynyard, composer Michael Williams and author Heather Morris.

In Cambridge the town’s Duke St Sports Walk of Fame has its first new member in four years – she is former softball international Gaye Bezzant.

Bezzant, who has spent all her life in the Cambridge area, was a New Zealand softball representative for a decade from 1955 and also represented Waikato in softball, netball, basketball and golf and coached. She is the 41st inductee.

The Te Awamutu Walk of Fame, opened in Selwyn Park by Kingi Tuheita in 2009, celebrates people born in and around Te Awamutu who have achieved world recognition in their fields as a resident. The walk is being refurbished. An event to honour the new inductees will be held later this year.

The six new names brings the total of 34.

Shane Stannett began his career representing Te Awamutu College, before going on to win both junior and senior national championship titles. He was an Olympic freestyle wrestling competitor in Commonweath Games, Oceania and World Championships as well as the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Kihikihi’s John Nicholson designed the course for the Kihikihi International Horse Trials, rapidly expanding his reputation and working on course designs for the Asian Games in South Korea and Indonesia.

Te Awamutu-born Jason Wynyard (Ngati Maniapoto, Ngapuhi) has won more than 200 world woodchopping titles and still holds five. He was appointed a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the sport of wood-chopping in 2017.

Michael Williams grew up in Te Awamutu before settling in Melbourne to attend the Conservatorium of Music institution. In 2000 he was appointed lecturer at Waikato University. Dr Williams’ work is in demand and has been commissioned by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, New Zealand Opera and Chamber Music New Zealand. His opera The Juniper Passion has been performed in Italy.

Brian Stannett has more than half a century’s involvement in Olympic freestyle wrestling. He joined the Te Awamutu YMI Wrestling Club in 1955 and went on to compete internationally, and hold positions as team manager, coach, official and referee at world senior championships, Commonwealth Games and Oceania Championships. He became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2018.

Pirongia-born Heather Morris’ induction was announced in December 2019, when she returned Te Awamutu to launch Cilka’s Journey, a sequel to her novel The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Her non-fiction book In Stories of Hope details stories of growing up in Pirongia.

The Walk of Fame is being refurbished and existing pou will be spruced up and information updated.  An official event to honour the new inductees will be held later in the year.

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