A lifetime of devotion to conservation and to the community of Puketapu he grew up in resulted in Roger Alexander getting a very special letter a fortnight ago.

"It had government markings on it so I knew it wasn't a speeding fine," he said with a laugh.

It was notification he had been awarded a Queen's Service Medal in this month's Queen's Birthday Honours.

"I was blown away — couldn't quite believe it," he said, for what he had done for conservation and the region through his lifetime was simply a labour of love.


"The only thing I was any good at had to do with the environment, so I thought I'd stick with that."

He has lived in Puketapu all his 82 years, and it was his vision to create something special for everyone that led him to embark on a huge project in 1978 to solve drainage and flooding issues around what was then a festering swamp, and create Lake Puketapu.

It was a 30-year mission. Today it draws unique wildlife and admiring visitors alike.

For the past two years, Alexander has provided his lake area and land for the Taradale Rotary Club to hold its market day, which generates about $25,000 annually for the club.

He and his family donated 50 acres of their land on the fringe of Taradale to the town, which, in cooperation with the Taradale Rotary Club, has been turned into the Dolbel Reserve recreation area.

He has also donated parcels of land to Puketapu School to accommodate school growth, planted trees on the grounds, granted use of the lake and his property for school functions as well as sports training and events.

There was never any question about doing what he did.

"When I was a kid I had ducks and chooks and liked to plant trees — and I'd catch eels in the swamp and take them back to the pond I made at home."


He said that love of the environment remained and he continued to keep busy every day.

This time of year means a lot of leaf removal.

"Have to keep up with them."

An experienced rural man, Alexander has been a committee member of the Hawke's Bay Agricultural and Pastoral Show Society since 1982 and an expert judge of cattle.

He is devoted to his old school, serving on its committee for the 125th and 150th anniversary events. He helped build the school's community hall and swimming pool and has held a number of roles as an Old Boy of Lindisfarne College, where he was a boarder.

Will he celebrate his honour?

"Oh yes," he replied, adding he would take friends and family out for a meal - at The Puketapu Hotel.