Some of New Zealand's leading lights in show business and sport have taken centre-stage in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours.

The country's newest dames and knights include the late Olympic gold medallist Yvette Corlett, influential playwright Roger Hall, rugby league legend Graham Lowe, and Oscar-winning screenwriter and producer Fran Walsh.

Queen's Birthday Honours 2019: The full list

They have been honoured alongside former Human Rights Commissioner Areta Koopu, a champion for Maori issues; property developer and philanthropist Paul Adams; and youth health stalwart Dr Sue Bagshaw.

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"You do the best you can with what you have... when you're acknowledged and awarded with something it's an awesome feeling," former professional boxer David Tua said. Photo / File

Other well-known Kiwi identities on the list include former heavyweight boxer David Tua and comedian and mental health campaigner Mike King, each to be made officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM), and actress Robyn Malcolm and veteran sports broadcaster Bryan Waddle, both to be members (MNZM).

This year's 183 recipients span all areas of public life, from arts and education to criminal justice and community work.

"Every honours recipient has made a valuable contribution to their community and our country," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"Their commitment to excellence and service represents the best of New Zealand."

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Ardern made special mention of Corlett, who died on April 13, just shy of her 90th birthday, for her pioneering contribution to athletics.

"As the first New Zealand woman to win an Olympic gold medal she was a trailblazer," the Prime Minister said of Corlett's 1952 long-jump victory at Helsinki.

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"In addition to her ground-breaking athletics success she undertook lifelong service to sport as a volunteer and administrator."

"I think many Kiwis will agree that Yvette's recognition at this level was long overdue - but I'm pleased that she knew she was to become a dame before she passed away."

Ardern also singled out Koopu, who, as well as having been a commissioner, was a former president of the Māori Women's Welfare League and a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and the Te Kohanga Reo National Trust Board.

The first Kiwi woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Yvette Corlett, learned she was to be made a Dame before she died in April, just shy of her 90th birthday. Photo / File
The first Kiwi woman to win an Olympic gold medal, Yvette Corlett, learned she was to be made a Dame before she died in April, just shy of her 90th birthday. Photo / File

Walsh - who is joining her partner in love and in work, Sir Peter Jackson, in the Order – meanwhile said the fact she'd been a working mother the past 24 years made her even more grateful to receive the honour.

"It's just something that women take for granted - that they have two jobs, and they have to do them both well - which is almost impossible," she said.

"Working women, working mothers - it's a harder road."

Hall, whose stage-writing career stretches back to the 1960s, said he was delighted with the knighthood partly because it gave the arts much-needed recognition.

"Sport gets a lot of honours but more people are involved in arts than sport," the 80-year-old said from Japan, where he is on holiday.

"Maybe one day TV and radio will have arts reporters in the same way they have sports reporters ... I am delighted by this; for me, of course, but also for theatre and the arts."

Ardern said Hall's prolific contribution to the New Zealand stage and screen was "without peer".

Queen's Birthday Honours: Screenwriter and film producer Fran Walsh honoured with damehood.

"For decades he has reflected back to us stories about who we are as New Zealanders, often containing spot-on social criticism of our public life."

Adams, one of the country's most successful businessmen, has been widely involved in the Western Bay of Plenty's civic and commercial world, while supporting a range of sports, arts and community events throughout the North Island.

Under his stewardship, Accessible Properties owns and manages New Zealand's largest non-governmental social housing portfolio, and he is also involved in a joint venture with Ngati Toa Rangatira to develop about 1000 affordable homes.

Soon-to-be Sir Roger Hall, an influential playwright, is delighted to be made a knight, partly because it provides much-needed recognition to the arts. Photo / File
Soon-to-be Sir Roger Hall, an influential playwright, is delighted to be made a knight, partly because it provides much-needed recognition to the arts. Photo / File

Bagshaw – who has worked in the youth health sector for 30 years – is also credited with a lengthy list of contributions to community programmes and agencies.

A senior lecturer in paediatrics at the University of Otago, she now chairs the Korowai Youth Well-Being Trust, and runs three teaching clinics.

Lowe's Lowie Foundation has been a lifeline for teenagers struggling with school, helping them on a pathway to training and work.

In more recent years, Lowe – still the only non-Australian to coach a State of Origin team – had expanded his work into prisons, with 200 young men at Ngāwhā and other sites now having graduated his course.

Graham Lowe's Lowie Foundation has been a lifeline for teenagers struggling with school, helping them on a pathway to training and work. Photo / File
Graham Lowe's Lowie Foundation has been a lifeline for teenagers struggling with school, helping them on a pathway to training and work. Photo / File

Tua, another sporting luminary who has channelled his energy into advocacy work, notably homelessness, told the Herald he felt "very honoured and very humbled".

"You do the best you can with what you have … when you're acknowledged and awarded with something it's an awesome feeling," the Samoan-New Zealander said.

Elsewhere in the sporting world, Indycar champion Scott Dixon and former Silver Ferns coach Yvonne Willering were made companions of the NZOM.

That honour will also now be held by two tireless stalwarts of New Zealand nature – long-time Environmental Defence Society leader Gary Taylor and Cawthron Institute chief executive Professor Charles Eason.

Of Eason, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said the pest control tools he had pioneered were now used every day to restore the health of our forests and critically endangered birds.

"Dr Eason's research is directly contributing to the return of the dawn chorus."