Peter Bonner is Tenterfield's citizen of the year for decades of service

PUBLIC RECOGNITION: Peter Bonner receives Australia Day award from ambassador Dr Jamal Rifi AM. Picture supplied by Peter Reid.
PUBLIC RECOGNITION: Peter Bonner receives Australia Day award from ambassador Dr Jamal Rifi AM. Picture supplied by Peter Reid.

Liston resident Peter Bonner has been named Tenterfield citizen of the year for his long history of involvement with local fire brigades, war memorials, land boards, and show societies.

"I'm very proud," Mr Bonner said. "Just to be nominated was quite an achievement, let alone to take out the award. I'm really chuffed! It's a wonderful feeling."

Mr Bonner has been invited to dine with the NSW governor Margaret Beazley when she visits Tenterfield later this month.

"That's the only engagement I know of at this stage," Mr Bonner said. "But I would be very happy to fulfil any functions that might come my way."

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Mr Bonner was director of the former Tenterfield Rural Land Board for 33 years, responsible for stock routes, noxious animals, and animal health. He was elected onto the board when he was 24, and stayed until it was forced to amalgamate with Glen Innes.

"It was a good board, and we were serving the district well, I thought. And yet we were forced to amalgamate, which was very sad. That was a shock to us when it happened. We fought and fought, but it got us nowhere, unfortunately."

For 60 years, Mr Bonner has been a member and past office bearer of the Liston / Wylie Creek Rural Fire Brigade (RFS).

"I joined the fire brigade when I left school at about 16, and I'm still a member of it. I'm nearly 80; I'm finding it hard to keep up. I do a bit of organizing; that's about all I do now."

Mr Bonner thought the fire brigade was a wonderful thing, but he wished it had more members, particularly young people.

"You can see what's been going on over the last couple of months all over eastern Australia. It's been quite a busy time for rural fire brigades."

Last year, the Liston brigade fought fires on the western front of the Bangala Creek blaze, about 20km east of the village.

"Our boys were mostly involved down in the Paddys Flat area," Mr Bonner said. "That went on for a couple of weeks till a bit of rain came. That dialled things down a lot.

"It was quite a busy time in very rough country, too. It's very difficult fire-fighting in those sorts of areas, but they've got to burn back from different fire trails to contain the fires.

"Hopefully you get that bit of rain; it puts the fire out, really. That's what you've got to wait for: try to dull it down, and keep on top of things as best you can."

Mr Bonner has been one of three trustees of the Liston War Memorial Reserve for 30 years. Their job is to maintain the War Memorial; they had it replaqued and cleaned a few years ago. They hold a dawn service every Anzac Day and an 11am function on Remembrance Day.

"It makes you feel good when you can do something for those that laid down their lives for our freedom," Mr Bonner said. "We get quite a few people along to the dawn service, which is good for a little place like Liston."

Mr Bonner has also been a member of the Stanthorpe Show Society for 63 years. That, he said, took him through to state level, with the Agricultural Societies Council of NSW. He was the Queensland delegate to the Australian Council of Agricultural Societies for a term.

"It's very rewarding," Mr Bonner said. "It's quite a big organisation, with 640 shows all over eastern Australia. It organises functions for young people - young judges and showgirls - coming out of the grass roots upwards."

Community service, Mr Bonner said, was a matter of everyone doing their little bit. "It just grows, and they just keep doing more and more. It'd be a pretty sad community if you didn't have people out keeping everything rolling. All these little organisations need people to take a leading role and get things moving."

Mr Bonner encouraged young people in particular to get involved. "Put your names forward, get on these committees, and play a leading role," he said. "You'd find the results of your involvement very rewarding."