By DAVID MOASE
Businessman Geoff King is probably enjoying his holiday in the United States but yesterday there would have been no better place for him to be than home in Coffs Harbour.
Mr King was named Coffs Harbour's Citizen of the Year at yesterday's Australia Day ceremony, just one day after leaving on the trip.
His son, Paul, stood in to accept the award from the mayor, Cr Keith Rhoades, and said his father would have been very honoured.
"He does a lot of things for the community but doesn't do them for the recognition," Paul King said.
Among the sporting and community groups he supports are the Coffs Harbour PCYC, three surf life saving clubs, Camp Quality, Streets Ahead, the Rotary Duck Race, the Indoor Stadium, Bunker Cartoon Gallery and the Botanic Garden.
His nomination was supported be a large number of supporting letters, which described 'humble', 'worthy', 'unconditionally supportive', 'an invaluable help', 'inspirational', 'generous' and 'unassuming'.
Young Citizen of the Year is CHY-FM radio announcer Matt De Groot (see story below).
The Sue Hunter Memorial Award, which is given for contribution to the community and the environment, was presented to Michelle Whackett for her work with the WIRES animal rescue organisation.
For 15 years, Ms Whackett has specialised in koala care attending, what she estimates, about 350 calls to help with injured animals.
She has rehabilitated more than 100 koalas in that time and raised a number of orphans.
The Coffs Coast Food and Wine Festival was named the Community Event of the Year.
Held last October, the four-day festival was a showcase for local producers and restaurants.
Organiser Sonja Wallis said the award was a great surprise because 'it is nice to know people notice what you do'.
The year's sporting awards went to representatives from opposite ends of the age spectrum.
Cyclist Marco Brandli, 75, was named winner of the Senior Sports Award.
He has been a regular cycling competitor and gold medallist at the Masters Games.
Mr Brandli also works hard encouraging juniors in the sport and raises funds for the Coffs Harbour Cycle Club.
Junior Sports Award winner is talented hockey player Heath Edwards, who is a member of the NSW Institute of Sport squad and has competed at the under-16 National All Schools titles.
Lisa Owen won the Meritorious Action Award for rescuing three people caught in dangerous surf off Mullaway Beach.
She used her surfboard to support the trio and persuaded them to paddle to safer waters.
The Voluntary Organisation Award went to Woolgoolga Lions Club, which has raised more than $50,000 for local people in the past year alone.
Club members have contributed 4442 volunteer hours to the community in that time to help projects such as the Woolgoolga Retirement Village.