Fire & Emergency New Zealand

Queen’s Birthday Honours recipients recognised

Queen’s Birthday Honours recipients recognised

Fire and Emergency New Zealand volunteers from Manaia, Auckland, Hahei and Karekare were presented with their Royal Honours by Administrator Justice Susan Glazebrook at Government House in Wellington today.

Fire and Emergency Board Chair Rebecca Keoghan says, "These five worthy recipients have dedicated years to helping their communities become stronger, safer and more resilient both through their roles as volunteer firefighters for Fire and Emergency, and through all their other community contributions. It is a pleasure to see their efforts recognised."

"On behalf of Fire and Emergency and the people of New Zealand, thank you for your outstanding service - your communities are richer for your work."



Background on recipients:


Mrs Makareta Mamoa Willow Desai (Manaia) - Member of The New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the community

Mrs Desai initiated the establishment of the Manaia fire force and first response unit in 2002 after needing assistance from the Coromandel Volunteer Fire Brigade for a fire.

She worked to identify prospective recruits and put together a fundraising team of local supporters, which led to the establishment of what is now the Manaia-Hauraki Volunteer Fire Brigade in 2003.

Mrs Desai was also involved in fundraising to build the Manaia Fire Station, which opened in 2013. In 2020, she oversaw a smoke alarm campaign which resulted in smoke alarms installed in 143 properties over eight days.

She was active with St John Coromandel from 2002 to 2005 and again from 2014 to 2015, when she helped build relationships between the organisation and the Māori community.

In 2002, Mrs Desai initiated the establishment of Manaia River and Landcare to provide ongoing slip prevention and biodiversity restoration to the river. She was a major contributor and secretary for the organisation from 2003 to 2009 and continues to be involved with working bees. She also supported a partnership leading to the creation of the Manaia River Restoration project with funding from the Waikato Regional Council.

Mrs Desai held the role of a trustee and secretary of the Wiremu Tekou Trust from 1995 to 2014. Her community service has also included roles as a youth recreational coordinator and Helensville Māori Warden, and volunteering at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and Manaia School during the 1980s and 1990s.



Bishop Ross Graham Bay (Auckland) - Queen’s Service Medal for services to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the community.

Bishop Bay joined the Auckland Operational Support Unit, the largest volunteer fire brigade in New Zealand, in 1988 and currently holds the rank of Deputy Chief Fire Officer.

He saw the need to recruit and retain new, young volunteers to refresh membership and ensure continuity of service. This led him to introduce a successful observer programme which allows candidates to ‘try out the role’ and attend callouts in a supervised capacity before formally joining. He also shortened pathways for volunteers to learn or become qualified for certain roles, maximising skills and potential.

As a brigade training officer, Bishop Bay became the first operational support member in New Zealand to pass the Institution of Fire Engineers’ international examination. He qualified as a Fire and Emergency New Zealand trainer, and has tutored and coached at the National Training Centre in Rotorua and throughout the country.

Bishop Bay was appointed Anglican Bishop of Auckland in 2010. He oversaw the transformation of the old church hall at St Marks in Remuera into a new community centre. He often acts as Brigade Chaplain officiating at memorial services, dedications, and funerals.

Bishop Bay was also appointed an Officer of the Order of St John.



Mr Ian W right Carter (Hahei) - Queen’s Service Medal for services to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the community

Mr Carter has been a member of Hahei Volunteer Fire Brigade since it was established in 1974 and was the Officer in Charge from 1976 to 1982.

In 1996, twenty-two years after its establishment, Hahei became a standalone volunteer fire brigade and Mr Carter became the inaugural Chief Fire Officer. He has held the role of Chief Fire Officer since then.

Mr Carter was part of a group that lobbied the council for better local fire protection, leading to the acquisition of second-hand fire equipment and the beginning of the Hahei Brigade.

He is one of the founding members of the Fire and Emergency Peer Support Group and was a member from the early 1990s until 2021. Mr Carter has helped establish and maintain an ongoing working partnership between Fire and Emergency, local Surf Lifesaving and St John Ambulance.

He qualified as a lifeguard as a teenager and became a member of the Hot Water Beach Lifeguard Service in the early 1990s. Since then he has remained active as a mentor and member of the committee.

Mr Carter has been involved in the local body Emergency Management Committee and created a walking track through his farm to Cathedral Cove, providing a link from Whitianga to Hahei for walking tourists and emergency responders.



Mr Karel James Witten-Hannah (Karekare) - Queen’s Service Medal for services to the community and education

Mr Witten-Hannah is a rural firefighter with the Karekare Volunteer Fire Brigade and has been a member since its establishment in 1984.

He taught at Massey University in West Auckland for 31 years and has actively volunteered in his community. He was a member of the Whānau Committee created to advocate for Māori students, which established Te Mahanahana Marae at Massey High School in 1987 and coordinated the School Marae Carving Project with Paremoremo prison.

From 1977 to 2006, Mr Witten-Hannah was an outdoor education coordinator for the school, coaching several sports, organising student trips, and supporting Māori and Pacific groups. He was also instrumental in establishing the Lone Kauri School in Karekare in the 1970s.

Mr Witten-Hannah has helped run Auckland Council’s Youth Leadership courses and has been a patroller with the Karekare Surf Lifesaving Club since 1985. During this time, he has been club captain and president, helping to grow membership and looking after the rebuilding and maintenance of the club.

In 1984, Mr Witten-Hannah became Karekare’s Volunteer Civil Defence Coordinator and since 2020 has co-led the Resilient Karekare Network, which created the Community Resilience Plan. He has been a founding member of the Piha and Karekare St John First Response Unit since 1993.

Mr Witten-Hannah was appointed a Member of the Order of St John in 2015.