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Derek Collier, QSM, said his honour was dedicated to the Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade and the Justices of the Peace in Whitianga. Photo: SUPPLIED

Deputy chief fire officer and JP Derek Collier honoured

Derek Collier was “totally blown away” upon being honoured for his community service.
The Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade deputy chief and Justice of the Peace [JP] received the Queen’s Service Medal in the 2023 King’s Birthday and Coronation Honours for services to Fire and Emergency New Zealand and the community.
Derek, who has lived in Whitianga for six decades, said his honour was an appreciation of the work his fellow brigade and JP members do for the town.
“I was totally blown away and thought to myself I’m sure there’s other people who deserve it far more than I do,” he said.
“It’s definitely not something that I have done all by myself, it’s the other members of the brigade, the other JPs in town, and especially my family.

“If anyone probably deserves this award, it’s probably my wife Jenny, who is also extremely involved in the local community.”
Derek said he first suited up at Whitianga Volunteer Fire Brigade in 1987.
“My grandfather, [Douglas Butcher], was the chief fire officer of the Stratford Fire Brigade and he actually received the Queen’s Fire Service Medal, and he was also the president of the United Fire Brigades’ Association,” he said.
“That gave me a little bit of inspiration to step up and join, and back then the fire brigade needed a couple of extra people involved and I was approached by them and I said yes, and the rest is history.”
Derek said he had been heavily involved in training recruits and was the senior station officer for nearly 20 years prior to being appointed its deputy chief in 2018.

He also competed in New Zealand and Australia with the brigade’s road crash rescue team for ten years.
“The comradery of the brigade is the biggest thing, it’s like a big family… we all work well with each other and it’s a great community group to be part of,” he said.
“We were obviously well recognised when we had Cyclone Gabrielle come through earlier this year, our boys were very busy for a couple of days but it’s just being a part of the community, helping the community when the community is in need.”
The 61-year-old said he had also served as one of 14 Whitianga JPs from his sports retail store on the main street for 18 years.
He is regularly involved with the Hauraki Justice of the Peace Association, mentoring newly appointed JPs and contributing to education sessions held in Whitianga.
“[In 2004] some of the local JPs were finding the workload was getting too much and they approached me and asked If I would be interested in helping the JP society to relieve the workload,” he said.
“Myself and all the other JPs in Whitianga do a fair bit of work around the area.”
Derek said he also flew commercially for ten years with Mercury Airlines, which operated an emergency air ambulance service, transporting patients to Auckland.