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Rare gong for ex-mayor

Adrienne Staples is to receive a top Japanese honour. PHOTO/FILE

By Don Farmer

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A special honour is to be bestowed on former South Wairarapa mayor Adrienne Staples by the Japanese government.

Mrs Staples, who retired from the mayoralty at last year’s local body elections, is to receive the Order of the Rising Sun as recognition for her contribution to international relations.

During her 12 years as mayor Mrs Staples several times hosted the top Japanese choir Chor-Farmer that visits Featherston every two years on a goodwill tour.

The choir members are billeted and gather at the garden of remembrance at Tauherenikau to honour 48 Japanese and one New Zealand serviceman who lost their lives when a dispute erupted into a shooting incident at the Featherston Prisoner-of-War camp in 1943.

Last year Mrs Staples took the choir party by surprise by declaring all its members to be honorary citizens of South Wairarapa.

A citation released by the Embassy of Japan credits Mrs Staples with a huge contribution towards promoting friendship and mutual understanding between Japan and New Zealand.

It stated Mrs Staples had encouraged local and national participation in the memorial ceremonies in remembrance of the Featherston Incident in which both Japanese and New Zealanders together “remembered a common juncture in history” where lives had been lost.

“She fostered mutual exchanges and understanding between Japan and New Zealand at grass-roots level by strongly supporting the hosting of bi-annual visits by Chor-Farmer Male Voice Choir.”

The Japanese order has many classes with Mrs Staples to receive the 4th Class, Gold Rays with Rosette.

Classes above that are to recognise royalty, top level politicians and outstanding historical figures.

The 1st class, Grand Cordon recipients include former Australian prime ministers Robert Menzies, Malcolm Fraser, John Howard and Gough Whitlam, along with Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew, English prime minster Sir John Major, wartime figures Douglas MacArthur and Curtis LeMay, and the Maori Queen Te Atairangikaahu.

The Order of the Rising Sun was first set up in 1875 by Japanese emperor Meiji and can be awarded to Japanese and non-Japanese nationals for achievements ranging from international relations, promotion of Japanese culture, welfare development and preservation of the environment.

Mrs Staples will not be travelling to Japan to be presented with the award but the Japanese Ambassador to New Zealand is organising a special ceremony in June for the honour to be bestowed on her.

Mrs Staples said the honour was “totally unexpected”.

“It is fair to say I was speechless when the ambassador phoned me to ask if I would accept.”

Mrs Staples said the work she had done developing the Featherston Incident Commemoration Service and supporting Chor-Farmer visits was the right thing to do as mayor of the district.

“There were many others who contributed to these events and so while I am the recipient of this wonderful award, it is on behalf of the Featherston community,” she said.

Although Mrs Staples is no longer mayor she is still involved in local body politics being Wairarapa’s sole representative on the Greater Wellington Regional Council.




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