Harshad Patel, former vice-president of Auckland Indian Association and New Zealand Indian Central Association, two of the oldest Indian community organisations in New Zealand has been named as the recipient of the Kiwi Indian Community Service Excellence award 2019.
Mr Patel has tirelessly worked for over three decades of the four decades of his tenure in New Zealand and has tried to bring the community together through different events and activities.
Mr Patel came to New Zealand in 1974 with his wife in search of a better life and career prospects for himself and his family. He started his professional career as an officer in bulk tonnage with New Zealand Railways but eventually moved to NZ Famers Fertilizer as Research and Development technician as he had a background in chemistry completing Bachelors degree in the subject from India.
Back in the early 1980s when the likes of Mr Patel has settled in New Zealand, the community was very small that reflected on Indian community’s regional, cultural, religious and national festivals that were barely celebrated or in isolation.
This motivated Mr Patel to do his part in bringing the small yet diverse Indian community together of several occasions such as Diwali, Independence Day, Navaratri etc. Being a musician himself, he was able to play and present the event along with the help of the then community leaders in Auckland.
Mr Patel followed his other passion for sports, and music-playing for Auckland Indian Sports Club and playing musical instruments such as harmonium, flute, piano, banjo and accordion.
Mr Patel also played a vital role, along with many others, in bringing up some of the iconic buildings like Mahatma Gandhi Centre and Shri Radha Krishna Temple for the benefit of the Kiwi-Indian community.
“I, along with a team of dedicated members, actively participated in raising funds to buy a property and establishing a big community centre. We bought the property from Findlay's Bakery in 1989 and refurbished it to Mahatma Gandhi Centre,” Mr Patel said in an interview with The Indian Weekender.
Deeply connected with the community, he along with the association realised the need of another place of worship for the growing Indian community in Auckland, as Balmoral Temple was the only and first temple for the Hindu community in New Zealand.
A temporary place of worship was made at the Mahatma Gandhi Centre but eventually, with the support of the community members and association the space at the MG Centre was demolished to build the Shri Radha Krishna Temple that is present today.
From 5,000 in 1974 to approximately 180,000 now, the Indian community has grown exponentially and served the growing population with increasing social and cultural needs.Mr Patel in his capacity of vice-president of community associations or just a member has contributed immensely.
Mr Patel has also received the Queens Service Medal in 2010 for his service to the Indian community in New Zealand.
What makes Harshad Patel deserving for this coveted title and award is his dedication toward the service of the Indian community for decades that too from the time when social media did not exist and gathering a significant number of people for an event or for a cause was a dire challenge.
Mr Patel, in his humble words, regards New Zealand as his adopted motherland and wants to serve his country and community. The Indian Weekender salutes the undying spirit of Mr Patel, who through his hard work and service, has brought immense glory and reputation to the Indian community.
Harshad Patel is the recipient of The Indian Weekender’s Community Service Excellence Award 2019.