Two former mayors, an Olympic gold medallist and two community heroes are among those being honoured today in the New Year Honours.

Former Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and former Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson have been made Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit, sailor Peter Burling was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, and voluntary youth worker Lieutenant Commander Gerry Purcell and community leader Tom Roper have been awarded the Queen's Service Medal.

Mr Crosby, who did not seek re-election this year after being with Tauranga City Council for 27 years, was honoured for his contribution to local government.

He told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend his mind went immediately to New Zealand's worst maritime environmental disaster, the Rena grounding, when he reflected on the reasons for the honour.

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As well as sitting on council for almost three decades, Mr Crosby was on the National Council of Local Government New Zealand, has been a director of Rotorua Regional Airport Ltd since 2010 and was a director of Tauranga City Investments Ltd in 2013.

Mr Paterson was another long-serving elected member recognised in the honours, spending 21 years in local government before deciding not to stand again this year.

He said he went into local government to service the Western Bay's communities, to help them achieve their aspirations, and to develop their district infrastructure.

While on the Western Bay District Council, Mr Paterson was involved with performance-based roading contracts in 2002 which was adopted nationally, and also took part in the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and SmartGrowth, which oversaw the development of the Tauranga Eastern Link highway.

Burling, the only local sports star in the honours list, rounded off a year of incredible achievements by being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The sailor not only brought home an Olympic gold medal in sailing, he was also made helmsman for Emirates Team New Zealand. He said he and sailing partner Blair Tuke were not in it for the recognition, but it was one of the perks of the job to have the country behind them.

Working with youths in his spare time has seen Gerry Purcell, a retired naval officer from Katikati, awarded the Queen's Service Medal for services to youth and outdoor education.

He spent years voluntarily working with young people in Welcome Bay area and from 2006 to 2013, he ran a drop-in centre in a local hall while organising activities such as camps and hikes.

For Mr Purcell, the medal was recognition of a team effort.

Charitable works through the Hillsdene Charitable Trust, which has helped organisations include the Tauranga Police CIB Charitable Trust, saw Tom Roper nominated for a Queen's Service Medal.

Mr Roper is well-known for his work in forming Tauranga Mainstreet, fundraising for the all-weather track at Tauranga Domain and for his work with Tauranga Riding for the Disabled and Waipuna Hospice.

When talking to the paper about his recognition, Mr Roper said he accepted the medal on behalf of all the volunteers he had worked with over the years and his family, particularly his wife.