From humble beginnings in Kaitaia to one of the country's biggest developers, Peter Cooper has been made a Companion of the NZ Order of Merit in the Queen's New Year Honours list.

He is one of five Northlanders honoured in the list, along with Hekenukumai Puhipi (Hec) Busby, Janet Froggatt, Lloyd Morris JP, and Bill Shepherd.

Mr Cooper, who went to Kaitaia College but now lives in Newport Beach, Los Angeles, was back in the country for the Christmas period, holidaying with family at his home at The Landing -formerly Mountain Landing - the luxury Bay of Islands property he developed.

He said he was honoured and humbled to receive the award but, like anybody who achieved any level of success, there was a host of people behind him equally deserving of recognition.


Mr Cooper is the founder of Cooper and Company and financially backed the redevelopment and restoration of 17 historic buildings, along with major new buildings in the Britomart Urban Restoration Project, in downtown Auckland.

He also established the Britomart Arts Foundation, seeding an initial donation of $1 million and donating works by New Zealand artists. He has been involved in a rural property development in the Bay of Islands at The Landing, which has involved the extensive creation of wetlands, native bush planting and preservation of areas of high archaeological value. Mr Cooper was awarded the University of Auckland Business School's Outstanding Maori Business Leader Award in 2008.

"I've got people that have been with me for both those developments and I'd like to think that this honour recognises the work they have done to help me get here," Mr Cooper said yesterday.

"It's an honour to receive it, but there are a lot of very, very hard-working people behind me that deserve recognition too."

He said being a developer was not about doing it for any honour but about making sure the best possible job was done.

Having being raised in Kaitaia, Mr Cooper said geography was no impediment to achieving success and anybody from small-town Northland could make it with hard work and dedication.

He was head boy of Kaitaia College when he was awarded an American Field Scholarship to the United States at the age of 17. He later moved with his parents to Auckland and, after employment in a glass works, went to Auckland University, where he studied law and became a lawyer.

He is now one of the country's most celebrated developers - but he is still a boy from the North.

"I'm very proud to be a son of Kaitaia. I was raised there and grew up on Ninety Mile Beach, going fishing with my father, so I have that in my soul," he said.

"The first stage [of his development] was Kaitaia. That's where it all started."