A Paraparaumu man who has made a significant contribution to the publishing industry has been recognised in the New Year Honours.
Roger Steele has become an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the publishing industry and the arts.
The publishing director of Steele Roberts Aotearoa in Wellington has supported hundreds of authors and poets, providing a platform for emerging writers through the production of about 600 books since the firm's first publication in 1996.
"I was surprised and felt I hardy deserved it, but realised it was very much a recognition of the authors I've been lucky to work with.
"I hope it also acknowledges the wonderful, loyal staff I've had, not to mention the unwavering support of my wife Christine Roberts, who remained in paid employment so we could have food on the table.
"I've never managed to make a living from publishing, but that's not why I've done it."
Roger got into the industry when he was working in adult education in the 1990s and met Hone Tuwhare at a tangi.
"We became friends, and I found that he had piles of unpublished poems that were in danger of being lost, so he asked me to publish them.
"That process took quite a time, during which I met JC Sturm (Jacquie Baxter).
"She had a manuscript ready to go, and that became our first book, Dedications, in 1996.
"Tuwhare's Shape-Shifter was our second."
His involvement in the industry has brought a lot of satisfaction.
"Helping to bring out an author's first work is very rewarding, but so too is working with older authors who still have a lot to offer.
"Editing manuscripts to get them to the highest possible standards of readability and accuracy has been a demanding but worthwhile obsession."
Moreover, discovering emerging talent was "always a joy as is helping someone tell their life story".
"It's also satisfying to capture parts of Aotearoa New Zealand's national treasure and make it widely available, such as the books we've done on folk songs, Māori kites, or Mervyn Taylor's wood engravings.
"Recently we have made some substantial additions to the body of literature about the Land Wars, and the injustices they caused."
In the company's busiest years, about 40 books were published annually.
"But that was madness, and now I work on just a handful at a time."
With various publishing requests, Roger had a few things he'd always look out for.
"Quality and freshness in poetry and fiction are high priorities, and in the case of non-fiction I hope a book will be worthy of keeping in a personal or public library because of the useful information and analysis it contains.
"If it challenges the status quo, or racism and other injustices, so much the better."
There had been a lot of highlights but "each and every book is a highlight in its own way".
"Here on the Kāpiti Coast where I'm now living, I could mention how wonderful it was to publish the stories and poems of Jacquie Baxter.
"Then there are fine poets like Julie Leibrich, historians like Hēni Collins with her major work on Te Rauparaha, and recently the memoir of Waikanae's Elizabeth Orr, a champion of equal pay for women."
While Roger works with a lot of genres, poetry has been a personal favourite.
"It's an under-appreciated medium, but at its best it goes straight to the heart, and it nourishes the spirit.
"There have been so many highlights, such as Sturm and Tuwhare.
"Glenn Colquhoun was an outstanding discovery.
"His book of medical poems sold over 10,000 copies, but I think his greatest contribution is his positive understanding of the richness of our bicultural, multicultural society."
Roger will receive his ONZM at a ceremony at Government House later in the year.