The achievements of Whanganui man Robert Martin were celebrated with a function at the Whanganui District Council yesterday.

Mr Martin has recently returned from New York where he was elected to the UN's Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities - the first person with a learning disability to do so.

It's just the latest achievement for the man who was diagnosed with brain damage at birth and spent much of his childhood in an institution.

The reception and morning tea in the council chamber was attended by Mr Martin and his wife Linda, Whanganui Mayor Annette Main and most of her councillors, and members of Whanganui's disability community.

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Also there to celebrate Mr Martin's appointment was Dame Tariana Turia, who was responsible for nominating Mr Martin for the committee.

In her speech, Mrs Turia said Mr Martin had made "a huge difference in the way we view others".

She said during her time as an MP she often bumped into Mr Martin at airports as he was on his way overseas to speak to an organisation or attend a conference.

Mrs Turia said Whanganui was proud of Mr Martin: "Not because you have a disability but because you have great ability."

Mr Martin told the gathering he was proud to be elected - although he was disappointed there would be only one woman on the committee.

The areas he particularly wished to focus on were equal rights before the law for people with disabilities; and the end of institutionalisation for people with disabilities.

Mr Martin said he would do his best during his term on the committee: "I'm glad to know I have Whanganui people behind me."