Des Britten honoured as Wellingtonian of the Year

Awards are wonderful and awards that recognise people who have made Wellington a better place are even better. On Thursday night at the Amora Hotel Father Des Britten, chef, fundraiser, city missioner, champion of good food and organiser of feeding the poor won the 2011 Wellingtonian of Year award.

It was a popular choice and follows last year's honour which went to long serving councillor Ruth Gottleib. Both awards recognise a life time of worthy achievement and service.

Previous winners like Marco Zeeman and Chris Parkin got theirs for spectacular achievements in a particular year. There is a difference and the respective merits can be debated. Des Britten stood out in a field of achievers however achievement is calculated.

Des also won the Community Service category award, and in accepting the supreme award he put his finger on what makes Wellington different and better.

"It's the colourful people, the characters. Wellington is full of characters. They make it the most wonderful place on earth."

He told of how his grandmother had brought him to Wellington as a small boy about 60 years ago, and of staying in "the grandest hotel I had ever seen - the People's Palace in Cuba Street. I couldn't wait to go to Woolworths on the corner for a cream freeze and then down to James Smiths and their rickety stairs."

As the Anglican City Missioner for 18 years (until his recent retirement), Des organised the feeding of thousands of people over the years, and supervised a very thorough telemarketing operation which touched the city's better off regularly for contributions. He got them too.

Others honoured were Conrad Smith in sport, and Sir Graeme Harrison in business. Harrison founded and still runs ANZCO foods, an under the radar company which now employs 3000 people selling New Zealand produce abroad.

"The agri-business sector was out of fashion when I went in to it (in 1984)." The company now has revenue of $1.2 billion.

He too was sentimental about Wellington. "Wherever I was in the world, I always knew that it (Wellington) was a great place to come back to."

Two of the loudest cheers of the night went to Suzie Moncrieff for her work for the Wearable Arts Awards, and for Jim Stuart-Black, the special operations commander for the Fire Service who ran the search and rescue operations in the Christchurch earthquake; he won the government category.

The DominionPost are the major sponsors and are supported by a cast of notable Wellington organisations, like the Wellington and Hutt City Councils, developer the Wellington Company, Wellington International Airport, Hawkins Construction, Opus, Massey University, Jackson Stone and Westpac.

As for Des Britten, he declared that "tomorrow I'll be down with the boys at the Bristol Tavern at 11.30 as usual for a beer and a chat. I am not promising to shout though."

At heart a Wellingtonian who loves his city, and whom the city and its residents loved back with this honour.