Queen's Birthday Honours: Celebrating our great Kiwis

By Jimmy Ellingham

New Zealand today has five new knights and two new dames in a Queen's Birthday Honours list, which includes Kiwis from all walks of life.

Queen's Birthday Honours list 2016

Gongs have been handed to top legal luminaries, educationists, businesspeople and shining lights of the arts world. The five new knights are Sir Robert Fenwick, for services to conservation and business, Sir Michael Friedlander, for philanthropy, Sir Christopher Mace, science and education, Sir Matiu Te Rei, Maori, and Sir Ronald Young, judiciary.

Fellow High Court judge the Hon Justice Ellen France, President of the Court of Appeal, becomes a dame today, also for services to the judiciary, as does Karen Sewell, recognising the former education secretary's commitment to the sector.

Some Kiwis are almost better known overseas than at home and film-maker Finola Dwyer, who becomes an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, is pleased she hasn't been forgotten here.

She made history this year for being part of the first female producing team to be nominated twice for Best Picture at the Oscars. She also won a Bafta for producing the film Brooklyn, adapted from a popular Irish novel.

Dwyer has produced an array of international films, after beginning her career in New Zealand television, including a stint at Country Calendar.

"It means everything. Recognition of this kind from my homeland, when I've been away far longer than I could have ever imagined, means I'm not forgotten," she said of her honour.

Billie Jordan's creativity was also acknowledged, as she becomes a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to seniors and dance.

After the Christchurch earthquake she left the corporate world, moved to Waiheke Island, taught herself hip hop dancing and turned senior citizens into nimble-footed dance exponents.

Queens Birthday Honours recipient, Billie Jordan of Hip Op-eration dance crew. Photo / Nick Reed
Queens Birthday Honours recipient, Billie Jordan of Hip Op-eration dance crew. Photo / Nick Reed

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The "world's oldest flashmob" she put together holds a place in the Guinness World Record pantheon and has attracted millions of views on YouTube.

Another dance exponent - Neil Ieremia, founder of dance company Black Grace - is made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Neil Ieremia. Photo / Supplied
Neil Ieremia. Photo / Supplied

Aucklander Lexie Matheson becomes an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to performing arts, education and LGBTIQ rights.

She was once beaten up by police because she used to be a man - for more than half a century she was Lex Matheson.

Transgender activist Lexie Matheson becomes an Office of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Photo / Supplied
Transgender activist Lexie Matheson becomes an Office of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Photo / Supplied

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She's come a long way from a tough childhood and is now writing a doctoral thesis on the history of karate in New Zealand. She's not bad away from the keyboard either, holding a black belt.

Dr Peetikuia Bessie Wainui has been made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori, health and education.

Dr Peetikuia Wainui. Photo / Supplied
Dr Peetikuia Wainui. Photo / Supplied

Our sports stars haven't been left out in the cold, among them former All Whites captain Steve Sumner, who has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

The 61-year-old, who captained the nation's football team during their famous 1982 World Cup campaign, is battling prostate cancer, but still recalls the team's amazing 15-game qualifying run: "It defied belief."

Steve Sumner. Photo / Kellie Blizard
Steve Sumner. Photo / Kellie Blizard

The team are still mates, and coach John Adshead, who had prostate cancer surgery himself more than 10 years ago, regularly keeps in touch.

"When team members get together, it's like a band of long-lost brothers," Sumner says.

Two NZME staff members have also been honoured. Former NZ women's cricket captain, Olympic hockey rep and Christchurch-based Newstalk ZB broadcaster Lesley Murdoch becomes an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport. As well as her on-field career, Murdoch has been a long-time administrator.

Another ZB broadcaster, Barry Holland, becomes a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Holland has been on air for 53 years. He fronted popular TV shows Top Town and On the Mat and broadcast from the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

The Hon Ronald Leslie Young

Knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to the judiciary

One of New Zealand's longest-serving judges becomes a knight today.

Sir Ron Young retired early last year after more than 25 years on the bench. His career as a judge began in Dunedin in 1988, when he was appointed to the District Court with warrants for youth matters and jury trials.

From 1993 until 2001, he was Chief District Court Judge, in charge of 112 judges. Following that he became a respected High Court judge, sitting also on the Court of Appeal and Vanuatu Court of Appeal and often handling high-profile matters, including sentencing ex-cops Brad Shipton and Bob Schollum to jail for rape. The then-Justice Young said the men, who in a separate case were acquitted of raping Louise Nicholas, were "corrupt police officers" who treated the woman "like a piece of meat".

Sir Ron was appointed president of the Electoral Commission in 2000 and was a member of a panel that recently reviewed media coverage of courtroom events.

It's a field he knew well, having worked as a journalist when he studied law at Otago University.

He is now living in Wairarapa.

Two weeks ago, his 35-year-old son Benjamin Young, from Lower Hutt, died when his vehicle plunged into a Wairarapa river.

Finola Dwyer

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the film industry

Kiwi film-maker Finola Dwyer is glad she's not forgotten in her homeland.

Dwyer made history this year as part of the first female producing team to be nominated twice for Best Picture at the Oscars. She also won a Bafta for producing the film Brooklyn.

She began her career in New Zealand, working on local television shows including Country Calendar, and has gone on to produce several international films, including An Education, Quartet, and Brooklyn.

Dwyer says she is "extremely proud" to have made the honours list.

"It means everything. Recognition of this kind from my homeland, when I've been away far longer than I could have ever imagined, means I'm not forgotten," she says. "I love New Zealand and feel very attached to it, and my yearly visits home and staying connected with the film industry is super important to me. I am first and foremost a New Zealander."

While Dwyer is based in the UK where she is the co-owner of independent production company Wildgaze Films, she maintains regular contact with the New Zealand industry, mentoring and advising film-makers.

Dwyer is developing a television spin-off of her Oscar-nominated film Brooklyn, which will centre around the Mrs Kehoe character, played by Julie Walters.

Barry Holland

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to broadcasting

Lesley Murdoch

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport

Two of Newstalk ZB's iconic voices, Barry Holland and Lesley Murdoch, are recognised in today's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Holland is made a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for a broadcasting career spanning more than five decades at Newstalk ZB, owned by Herald publisher NZME.

Holland was a Mt Albert Grammar student in the 1960s when, on a careers day, he put down he'd like to be a cadet at '1ZB'.

Holland went on to be a ZB newsreader, producer and host of the Saturday morning sports programme for 20 years. He now teaches.

Holland said he'd never been completely comfortable with accolades, but was very appreciative of those who nominated him.

Newstalk ZB Christchurch host Murdoch is made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport.

She hosts a weekly show on ZB and commentates hockey and netball for Sky Sport and TVNZ.

She is also a member of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority Community Forum and a board member of Netball New Zealand, with a special focus on developing the game in post-earthquake Canterbury.

Murdoch said she felt honoured to be recognised and was mindful of the many other volunteers who had pitched in to keep sport going in the city.

Dr Peetikuia Bessie Wainui

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori, health and education

Peetikuia Bessie Wainui's CV spans 40 years, but there's something that really stands out for the semi-retired nurse.

The 66-year-old helped organise visits to, and went into, Mongrel Mob and Black Power gang pads - where other health services would not tread - to vaccinate children against Meningococcal B.

Dr Wainui has contributed to Maori health services and encouraged higher education for Maori in a range of roles.

Today, she becomes a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori, health and education.

In 2007, Dr Wainui, who lives in Gisborne, managed the Outreach Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme for under-5-year-olds (Maori) in the Wellington region.

With Te Ngawari Hauora - a community health provider with the Capital and Coast Primary Health Organisation - she liaised with kaumatua and kuia to get gang members to bring their children to their headquarters for vaccination.

"For us to get in there, it was very important," Dr Wainui said. "Everyone is entitled to good health, including them.

"Mainstream wouldn't go to their sites. That was a success."

She said she didn't feel threatened. "We just fitted in, it was like a big marae. We just wanted to get in there and do our thing. It looked like a challenge at first ... but they trusted their kaumatua. It was about delivering."

Dr Wainui, a mother of two and grandmother of six, still works as a community nurse in Gisborne, does research for the Nursing Council of New Zealand and drives a school bus every morning and afternoon.

Last year she was awarded a doctorate in education from Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi in Whakatane.

Viduranga Aruna (Aruna) Abeygoonesekera

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to New Zealand-Sri Lanka relations and the Sri Lankan community

During the outpouring of grief for Auckland Zoo's much-loved elephant Kashin, a reporting analyst in Wellington called then Auckland mayor John Banks.

"I told Mr Banks, I've read all this about you having lost one of your elephants. And would you like me to look at getting you a replacement," Aruna Abeygoonesekera recalled of the 2009 conversation.

The 60-year-old, who is Sri Lanka's Honorary Consul to New Zealand, wasn't to know it would take almost six years before Anjalee touched down in Auckland. Conventions on the exchange of animals meant the elephant was gifted by the Sri Lankan president.

Anjalee was flown on an Emirates aircraft to Auckland, then on a NZ Defence Force Hercules to Niue, to spend three months in quarantine. "It was first myself, then it got diplomatic, then political. But eventually it happened," Mr Abeygoonesekera said.

In February, Prime Minister John Key was presented with a deed of ownership for 5-year-old elephant Nandi, from the same Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage, during a visit to Colombo. Mr Abeygoonesekera was not involved in that gift, but relationships built during negotiations over Anjalee provided the groundwork.

Some animal rights activists have criticised the Nandi arrangement, saying some animals find it difficult to adapt to their new climates and without their families.

Mr Abeygoonesekera said the elephants came not from the wild, but sanctuaries.

Mr Abeygoonesekera describes his unpaid work as honorary consul as being a "one-man band", completed in spare time around his Ministry for Social Development role.

Ellen France

Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the judiciary

The Hon Justice Ellen France has been president of the Court of Appeal since September 2014. She was appointed a High Court judge in 2002 and a judge of the Court of Appeal in 2006. She commenced legal practice in Auckland in 1981, before taking up a role as senior legal adviser in the Department of Justice Law Reform Division. In 1992 she joined the Crown Law Office as Crown counsel, becoming a team leader and subsequently Deputy Solicitor-General in 1998.

Karen Sewell

Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education

Karen Sewell has had a career in education that has spanned 50 years. She has been chief executive of the Ministry of Education and Secretary for Education, chief executive and chief review officer for the Education Review Office and acting chief executive for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority. She is the only New Zealander to have held all these roles in the education sector. She has been chairwoman of the Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu Correspondence Board since 2012 and a board member of the Australia and New Zealand School of Government since 2014. She was also previously a member of the board of the New Zealand Teachers' Council, president of the Auckland Secondary Schools Principals' Association and chairwoman of the Principals' Council of New Zealand Post Primary Teachers' Association. Ms Sewell led the implementation of National Standards, a new national curriculum and Youth Guarantee.

Christopher Mace

Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to science and education

Christopher Mace has been chairman of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research since 2009. During this time he has forged relationships with other scientific entities and worked on improving the financial performance of Niwa. He chaired Auckland University's South Pacific Marine Science Advisory Board from 2006 to 2012. He was chairman of the board of a joint effort between the Universities of Auckland, Wellington and Otago to establish a national platform for advanced teaching and postgraduate research in marine sciences. He is currently a commissioner of the Tertiary Education Committee, and is also currently chairman of the Sir Peter Blake Trust Awards selection panel.

Matiu Te Rei

Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Maori

Matiu Te Rei has served the Maori community in health, education, economic development, culture and Treaty of Waitangi resolution. Since 1989 Mr Te Rei has been pivotal in the growth of Te Runanga O Toa Rangatira, the development organisation for the Ngati Toa Rangatira people, of which he is executive director. In this role he has led the establishment of a primary health service comprising four medical centres, a specialist nursing and health workers service, an addictions and primary mental health service and a disability residential service. He has been principal adviser to the Runanga Council on the tribe's business investments and operations and has led the Runanga's promotion of tribal language, history and traditional customs. Since 1986 he has been responsible for preparing and leading Ngati Toa's Treaty of Waitangi claim and for developing the post-settlement entity and its organisational structure.

Neil Ieremia

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to dance

Neil Ieremia founded dance company Black Grace in 1995 and as artistic director and chief executive has since turned it into an "iconic cultural brand".

For its 20th anniversary in 2015, Black Grace toured New Zealand with 20 For 20, performing in 20 venues with $20 tickets, allowing a range of Kiwis to experience their work.

Black Grace has toured in Europe, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Mexico and Australia.

In 2004 they made their United States debut, returning in 2005, and has since toured regularly in North America.

Mr Ieremia has choreographed work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Opera New Zealand, New Zealand Wearable Arts and the Holland Dance Festival. His recent work has included Passchendaele with the RNZB, commemorating World War I.

George Farrant

Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to heritage preservation

George Farrant has been Principal Heritage Advisor since 2010 for the Auckland City Council and is recognised as a national leader in heritage protection. Mr Farrant developed an innovative heritage protection system to help identify and protect heritage buildings, items, trees, archaeology, geology and conservation zones in Auckland's city and Hauraki Gulf Islands.

He has collaborated with iwi to identify places of cultural significance and led negotiations with landowners to protect these sites.

He has presided over numerous restoration projects including the Civic Theatre, the restoration of Auckland Town Hall, the Auckland Art Gallery, and Pah Homestead.

Mr Farrant developed the concept of the Auckland Heritage Festival, which has run for 10 years, and has contributed to development of heritage policy in the Resource Management Act, and in national and regional forums.

- NZ Herald

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