The first man to establish the largest waterfowl collection in Australasia has been recognised for his development of wetlands in the country.

Ian Pirani has been awarded the Queen's Service Medal for his committed services to New Zealand conservation and farming-environment initiatives.

"The first thing I need to say is I couldn't have achieved the things I've achieved in my life without my wife ... I am very very honoured to receive this prestigious award," Mr Pirani said from his Omokoroa home.

He and his wife, Dawn, were the first people in New Zealand to privately breed whio in captivity, which kick-started national interest.

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He co-founded Ducks Unlimited in 1974, through which he and his wife began a Pateke breeding programme and established nesting boxes for Grey Teal throughout the country.

"We had beautiful wetlands and we were lucky enough to fill it with all that good stuff like native and exotic birds my wife and I bred," said Mr Pirani.

He is also a strong supporter of the harvest of goats from native forests.

"I'm happy with what I've done but I've got one major goal, and that's goat farming in New Zealand. It's something I really think we're being stupid about."

Mr Pirani has served on a number of environmental and farming boards, including the Meat and Wool Board as a member of the Goat Advisory Group, the Eastern Fish and Game Board, Bay of Plenty Goat Farmers Association, the Department of Conservation East Coast Board, and the National Trust of Balance Farm Environment Board.

Mr Parani suffered from a stroke in 2008. He now has prostate cancer. After three years of being clear of it since his first diagnosis, it's "come back with a vengeance".

"I've had a bloody exciting life I tell you."

Mr Pirani's biggest highlight now is watching his mokopunas grow and be educated in the changes he's made.

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