And the winners are: Southern Heroes NZ organiser John Cushen, left, with local philanthropist Sir Eion Edgar drawing winners last weekend


Thanks to a Queenstowner’s initiative, Otago and Southland Covid-19 lockdown heroes have been rewarded with free accommodation, activities, attractions and meals shouted by Southern operators.

John Cushen set up Southern Heroes NZ after being moved by the story of Dunedin nurses self-isolating with Bradford Manor dementia patients.

He and his wife, Amanda, put out a call for people to nominate their were overjoyed to received 36 nominations.

They also tapped tourist operators, “who also face a huge uphill battle”, Cushen says, who provided prize packages in Te Anau, Queenstown, Mt Cook, Wanaka, Stewart Island, Invercargill and Dunedin.

Impressive nominees included Queenstown’s Happiness House manager Robyn Francis and her staff and Salvation Army’s Andrew Wilson, Bradford Manor, Queenstown Baskets of Blessing volunteer Lee Nicolson, Te Anau personal trainer Casey Brown, local travel agent Tori Keating who’s been repatriating migrants and tourists, Queenstown’s emergency operations centre, Stewart Island volunteer Sharon Pasco, local ‘good all-round person’ Ingrid Pritchard, Dunedin doctor Rachel Wensley, Te Anau community worker Dale Wairau, Otago Peninsula volunteer Claire Metcalfe and Gore New World staff.

Local philanthropist Sir Eion Edgar drew nominees out of a hat to determine the order in which they got to pick the prize they wanted.

Cushen says ringing up the winners was “one of the most satisfying times I have had for many years”.

“To hear the humble responses, ‘I’m just one of a team’, to the real ‘this is just what I need, as the batteries are pretty low’, was inspirational.”