11 August 2022

Bega Valley mourns death of tireless worker for the community, Chris Nicholls

| Albert McKnight
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Bega Valley resident Christopher Nicholls holding a drink

Christopher Nicholls was a beloved Far South Coast resident. Photo: Merimbula Visitor Information Centre.

The Bega Valley is mourning the sudden loss of resident Christopher Nicholls, who died earlier this month.

An outpouring of grief has reverberated around the region for Mr Nicholls, who was known for working tirelessly to help his community.

He spent years as the manager for the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre, volunteered with the town’s fire brigade, worked with Bega Valley Shire Council and more.

The shire’s mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick, said Mr Nicholls had a profound impact on Merimbula.

“Chris loved Merimbula wholeheartedly and was passionate about what it had to offer visitors to the area,” he said.

“He was also a popular council staff member during a couple of stints with the organisation and is remembered for his caring and engaging nature and warm sense of humour.”

Cr Fitzpatrick said Mr Nicholls wanted the best for everyone and did what he could to ensure people chased their goals and reached their potential.

“He was the face of Merimbula’s visitor offering and much loved by all who knew him,” he said.

“His smile and positive words for all he met will be very much missed.”

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In a statement on social media, the Merimbula Visitor Information Centre said while Mr Nicholls had managed Merimbula Tourism for several years, “he was so much more than that”.

“He was a remarkable man who was highly regarded as a community leader, mentor and friend, who saw the joy in life, always smiling and spreading cheer wherever he went,” the centre said.

“Chris volunteered with the Merimbula Rural Fire Brigade, the Merimbula and Pambula Business Chambers, the Merimbula Man Walk, the Merimbula Jazz Festival committee, the NYE fireworks and many more.

“He never hesitated to put his hand up and went above and beyond during the fires and COVID to support his community.”

The Merimbula Rural Fire Brigade released a statement saying Mr Nicholls was “a highly regarded and competent member of our brigade and he will be sadly missed”.

Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick, Anthony Osborne and resident Chris Nicholls in conversation

From left, Bega Valley Shire Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick, Anthony Osborne and Chris Nicholls. Photo: Supplied.

He joined the brigade in 2014 and held a number of positions, including secretary, community education officer and brigade president, which he held until his death.

He was also awarded the National Emergency Medal and Premier’s Bushfire Emergency Citation for his contribution to the 2019/20 bushfires.

“As a mark of respect for Chris, we have put out in front of the Merimbula station sign a pair of boots and helmet and ask if you passed this simple symbol of respect that you pause and remember that Merimbula has lost one of its finest residents,” the brigade said.

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Sapphire Coast Destination Marketing also published a statement, saying Mr Nicholls stood tall for Merimbula Tourism during the most difficult of times, as the impacts of the bushfires battered the region

and pandemic.

“There has been no stronger advocate for Merimbula and its important role in the successful marketing of the Sapphire Coast,” it said.

“We will miss Chris’ regular stream of tourism ideas, incredible passion for his town and strong voice for the region at the tourism table.”

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