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Manawatu volunteer firefighter wins national leadership award

In addition to contract milking and being a volunteer firefighter, Michael McCombs has added a NZ Young Farmers Excellence Award to his list of achievements

The award is designed to recognise members who are leaders, achievers, and role models, and Michael is one of three NZ Young Farmers members to receive the 2018 national leadership award, alongside Jessie Waite and James Goodwin.

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Michael McCombs

“This year’s winners are shining examples of young people who are stepping up and making a difference,” NZ Young Farmers Board chair Ash-Leigh Campbell says. “The trio epitomises everything our Excellence Awards stand for.”

Michael, 26, contract milks 400 cows at Kimbolton and has been a volunteer firefighter for four years.

“Parents look at how close they are to schools when considering a job, but I look for the nearest fire station,” he says.

The Marton Young Farmers chair and former Taranaki Dairy Trainee of the Year said he was stoked to even be nominated. Kimbolton’s chief fire officer Tony McIntyre said New Zealand needs more volunteers like Michael.

“He’s bloody brilliant. He’s 100% committed and he’s always there,” he says. “It’s an ongoing struggle to find volunteers, so our brigade is extremely lucky to have someone as dedicated as Michael.”

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Jessie Waite

Jessie Waite, 26, works for Taranaki Federated Farmers, managing the organisation’s regional office in New Plymouth.

A savage drought last summer saw her help mobilise a big relief effort and hit the road to deliver it. A series of family barbecues were held in drought-ravaged communities to entice weather-weary farmers off their farms.

“Having a summer holiday was the last thing on my mind when the welfare of Taranaki’s farmers was taking another hit,” says Jessie, who’s a member of Central Taranaki Young Farmers.

A nomination submitted by the organisation’s farmer executive said the barbecues would not have happened without Jessie.

“It was because of her hard work that over an extremely stressful time hundreds of struggling farmers were able to get off the farm and forget about the dry for a while,” it said.

Jessie says she was humbled by the win. “I definitely don’t do what I do to get recognition, but when I do, it’s a nice pat on the back.” 

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James Goodwin

James Goodwin, 31, has been recognised for his role convening the 50th FMG Young Farmer of the Year Grand Final in Invercargill.

The headline-grabbing event was described as “the best grand final ever”. Fellow committee member Steve Henderson said James’ award was extremely well deserved.

“It was no mean feat pulling off that grand final. I’d hate to think how many hours James put in behind the scenes, which meant time away from his family and farm,” he says.

James runs his family’s Gore sheep farm, which has 3700 ewes, and is a long-time member of Waitane Young Farmers.

“It’s a bit overwhelming to think that there are people within NZ Young Farmers who think what I have done is extraordinary,” he says.

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