A STALWART of the Whakatane SPCA who has dedicated more than 35 years to the protection and welfare of animals in the region has received the national organisation’s highest accolade.

Whakatane woman Marj Whalley was inducted into the SPCA Hall of Fame last month in recognition of her decades of work for the organisation in Whakatane, 30 of those years as animal welfare inspector.

For Marj though, the many years she has dedicated to the protection and welfare of animals, many of them featuring a host of fur-covered charges taking up long-term residence at her home, has been time well spent.

“I had to give it all up two or three years ago,” says Marj. Falling over, Marj suffered a badly broken leg that resulted in mobility issues. “Everything became difficult,” she says. “I even had to part with my corgis because I couldn’t look after them well enough anymore.”

A long-time lover of corgis – and earlier, a prize-winning breeder – Marj has long been known for her collections of both corgis and rescued animals of all shapes and sizes.

Now using a mobility scooter to get around, she says she still manages to oversee some animals, but only those much closer to home. “I feed the ducks at the skatepark every day so they don’t fly away and get shot,” she says. “I can still manage that, and I enjoy it.”

Marj emigrated to New Zealand from Lancashire and began her involvement with the Whakatane SPCA in the early 1970s. She received her animal welfare inspector warrant in 1980 and continued in the role until 2010 when she relinquished the position, continuing as an auxiliary officer for the organisation.

“I’ve seen a lot of terribly heart-breaking things,” says Marj. Nevertheless, she chooses to focus on the positive outcomes that have resulted from SPCA intervention. Among the memoirs she keeps are albums that feature before and after photos of animals rescued by the Whakatane SPCA, many of which were included in the book she earlier published, titled Some Of The Animals I Have Known.

Her tireless work for the organisation has been publicly acknowledged several times over the years. In 1990 she was awarded a Queen’s Service Medal in recognition of her service to animals. In 2000, she was presented with the Royal New Zealand SPCA Medal of Merit followed by a gold bar in 2014. She was also a recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medallion, issued by the RNZSPCA.

Marj was a committee member until 2017 and is a life member of the Whakatane SPCA.