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For 30 years, DOC have been New Zealand’s Rural Fire Authority. This means that many staff are trained to fight fires, and do so on public conservation land when necessary.

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By Jeniffer Larson

Kaitaia Area Office Ranger, William Macrae, who was tragically killed in a helicopter crash last November, has been awarded the Far North’s first posthumous Citizen’s Award.

William Macrae at Three Kings Islands

William Macrae, Janeen Collings, Lester Bridson and Nellie Norman on Three Kings Islands

William and John ‘Prickles’ De Ridder (the helicopter pilot), lost their lives on November 30 2011, when the helicopter they were in crashed into the sea just off the Karikari coastline in Northland. Both men had been involved in fighting a wildfire and had been diverted to try to rescue people who had fled into the ocean to escape the flames.

The courageous actions of the men were honoured at a special ceremony at the Far North District Council office. Far North Mayor, Wayne Brown, acknowledged the enormous contributions both men had made to their communities.

Left to Right: Alan Macrae, Doug Te Wake, Rocky Andrew (brother in-law), Jenny Larson (reading tribute), Laurie Andrew (Jenny’s sister), Samuel Larson Macrae (son), Carol De Ridder (Prickles’ wife) and Grant Harnish (Salt Air)

Mayor Brown talked about the role both men had played in serving their communities over several years as fire fighters, “ultimately sacrificing their lives.”

Hunting trip in the Ruahines

William’s widow, Jenny Larson (who is the Office Support Ranger in Kaitaia), received the award on William’s behalf. Jenny was supported by family, friends and a good contingent of local DOC staff.

In a heartfelt speech, Jenny expressed her gratitude and appreciation to all those who had supported her and the rest of the family in the months following William’s death. She said that since the accident that claimed William and Prickles’ lives, “our families have been helped, supported and loved by a countless number of individuals.”

William, James Andrew (nephew) and Samuel Larson Macrae (son) hunting

William was considered one of DOC’s most experienced fire fighters. He had been called upon to act in a variety of roles, including front line fire fighting, and as a member of the CIMS team. His death was a harsh reminder to his colleagues of the dangers that sometimes comes with the territory of working for DOC. Certainly, each of us thinks hard before engaging in fire fighting or getting into a helicopter since the accident.

William and Jenny scrubbed up for daughter Shauna’s wedding

William was a great colleague, with a passion for his work and for our community. His last project was overseeing the upgrades and construction of a multi-day walk in Te Paki. William’s work on the track is continued through his brother, Alan Macrae (Kaitaia’s Historic Ranger) who has taken over the project, and William’s son Samuel, who is working with the building contractors. Plans are underway to incorporate a memorial for William into the track, once completed.

Once again Jenny and her family wish to send thanks to all that have helped and are still helping in so many ways.

Na te whanau nei e mihi aroha kia koutou ma. I to koutou nei awhina, manaaki, aroha ranei. E kau nei matou te Whanau e warewaretia.
Noreira, na te atua e tiaki, e manaaki hoki.

It’s been raining in Northland at last but there’s still a strong fire risk. All the region’s wildfires are being investigated and the causes will be found! Stay safe – don’t light wildfires.

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