Meet the North Burnett’s 2021 Citizen of the Year
Each year on Australian Day, the North Burnett Citizen of the Year is bestowed upon an outstanding community member who has made an exceptional contribution to their region and beyond.
This year both the Gayndah Citizen of the Year and the regional Citizen of the Year awards, encompassing the entire North Burnett, were presented to John Zahl.
“John has been an outstanding member of the community, having dedicated more than 35 years of service to many clubs and businesses in Gayndah,” North Burnett Councillor Dael Giddins said.
“John is the kind of person who will offer you assistance before you have the chance to ask.
“The following are just some of the organisations that have been lucky enough to have John’s knowledge and guidance over the years: the Gayndah Red Cross, the Gayndah CWA, the Gayndah Jockey Club, Gayndah Senior Rugby League, Gayndah Development Association, St Joseph‘s Parish, Gayndah Museum, Rural Aid, etc.”
Born and raised in Gayndah, Mr Zahl said he is passionate about advancing the community and fighting for the small towns needs.
“It’s where I was born and where I grew up. It educated me, provided me a wife and children, employment, with everything I’ve achieved in life, it’s been Gayndah town,” he said.
“My mum was born here, I was born here. I just got involved in the community as it went along and tried to make my contribution to make the old place better.”
Starting out as a lawyer at the local courthouse, Mr Zahl eventually stepped into the role of councillor for the North Burnett region, working alongside council to advance the community whether it be funding the Gayndah river walk or securing Rural Aid funding for Gayndah and Monto.
Today, Mr Zahl still puts all his time and energy back into the community while asking for nothing in return, assisting numerous local businesses and providing a free auditing service for not-for-profits in the area.
“Along the way I’ve been involved in a great number of clubs. Presently I’m involved with the Bendigo bank, Lifeflight, our local retirement village and the Burnett Inland Economic Development Organisation (BIEDO) - I chair that organisation,” he said.
“I was very fortunate to be able to take on a role as an honorary auditor for a great number of clubs.
“I decided it was something I had the ability to do and could provide a free service which saved those clubs from paying accountants and auditors fees. The bulk of those clubs raise money for the community, so the more money they have the more they can put back into the community.”
While all his hard work flows from a genuine love and appreciation for the town that shaped the man he is today, Mr Zahl is deeply honoured for this award and the recognition he’s been shown by the Gayndah community.
“I am deeply honoured. Words don’t describe,” he said.