New rest home owner ‘humbled’ by honour

She’s been running Raglan’s rest home for barely six months now so it came as quite a shock to Maree Burley recently to learn her work here in aged care had earned her a nomination as one of 125 pioneering Waikato women.

Maree last week joined the other Waikato “heroines”, as they’ve been dubbed, for a high tea in Hamilton celebrating both women’s achievements across the spectrum and 125 years of women having the right to vote in New Zealand.

“It was amazing to be among some truly inspirational women, and I felt very humble and undeserving,” Maree says of the function, held at the Grain Exchange in Pukete.

“What we have undertaken cannot be achieved by one woman but only by the commitment of the whole team at Raglan Hospital & Rest Home and more importantly the Raglan community.”

The event was organised by Waikato 125, an initiative coordinated by Hamilton city councillor Angela O’Leary which recognises “women who display values like the great Kate Sheppard who passionately led the New Zealand women’s suffrage movement”.

The citation for Maree said she had taken on the huge challenge of owning and running a small independent rest home/hospital in Raglan when so often the only rest home option was a large business conglomerate.

Maree had taken on the challenge to keep the small family affair rest home/hospital alive and thriving. She had spent a huge amount to update and improve the premises and introduced feel-good additions such as new bookcases, various pets and sleeping facilities for family members staying over. She had also increased staff numbers and generally created a friendly, approachable environment for staff, residents and their families alike.

Among other nominees were Waikato Women’s Refuge co-founder Ruahine Albert, designer Annah Stretton – who for years had a getaway in Lorenzen Bay – former Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker, Tainui leader Parekawhia McLean and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Maree said nobody at the high tea knew who in their community had nominated them, or why. But once everybody got talking it was easy to see what was also special about the lesser-known women. All nominees received ceramic koru made by students from schools across Hamilton and Te Awamutu.

Edith Symes