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NZ Tourism Awards: Celebration, sadness for an “irrepressible” winner

14 Nov 2022  By Paul Yandall | | @tourismticker

While the first in-person New Zealand Tourism Awards since 2019 have been celebrated in style, one accolade came tinged with a note of sadness for one of the industry’s most ebullient characters.

Dive! Tutukaka founder Jeroen Jongejans was posthumously awarded the Sir Jack Newman Outstanding Industry Leader Award, which was accepted on Thursday evening at Claudelands in Hamilton by partner Kate Malcolm.

Jongejans, aged 63, passed away suddenly due to a medical event in February while paddleboarding in Tūtūkākā Harbour.

Jeroen Jongejans

The industry stalwart worked in dive tourism for 30 years, running Dive! Tutukaka and a portfolio of tourism businesses alongside Malcolm.

“I accepted the Sir Jack Newman award on behalf of Jeroen, which was really special. I was totally honoured and humbled to be able to accept it on his behalf – I was so proud,” Malcolm told the Ticker.

“Unbeknownst to me, our daughter Esther actually nominated Jeroen so she totally honoured him completely. It’s just so nice for him to be recognised in such a way.”

Malcolm described Jongejans as “irrepressible and absolutely driven”.

“He ran for [regional] council in Northland – he was a [former] Whangārei district councillor – and his campaign was a bright orange billboard with ‘positively positive’ on it – that’s just totally him,” she said.

“At every TRENZ or tourism awards, he’d be the first to look at new up-and-coming businesses and he would make a point of going across and actively giving them a boost and telling them that they’re awesome and giving them that positive essence to help keep them going. He would always be the guy who would always be the cheerleader.”

Had Jongejans been the one going on stage on Thursday evening, what would he have said?

“He would have just said this is the best industry to be in and it’s been hard times but you just have to keep moving forward and keep enabling tourism to be a positive platform for everybody, not just as a tourism business but for the wider community too, for all people,” Malcolm said.

“Tourism has the tentacles to go into everywhere and I think he would have spoken around that and how positive tourism is and how it is a platform that can effect change and how he wanted everyone to make a difference.

“He would have been celebrating the fact that we have come out the other side of the last two years and that it’s onwards and upwards and let’s work together and go for it.”


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