Through 49 years and 98 books, Alison Holst has tried to make Kiwi women's lives easier.

Her cookbooks have always had one goal - to help busy women make food that has their families saying "yum".

Now, she has been made a Dame Companion in the New Year Honours for being a "positive role model to New Zealand families for more than 40 years".

Dame Alison was a home science teacher at Otago University in 1965, only a few years after New Zealand first got television, when broadcasters came looking for someone who could do some "real" cooking on-air.

A programme hosted by a chef had drawn many complaints for being too foreign to most households.

Today, Dame Alison says she could never have imagined where that opportunity would take her.

"It's overwhelming. It's not something I would have dreamed of."

She loved seeing the impact she could have, she said.

When her show focused on seafood, the fishing industry told her it had bumper sales. When she made a meatloaf on air, supermarkets sold out of sausage meat.

"It means people have been watching and think, 'Yes, I can make that.' And that's exactly what I want people to do."

Dame Alison has travelled to many countries as a NZ food ambassador, experiences she still recounts with excitement.

But her favourite moments were seeing her latest books arrive in the mail.

"You had all these sheets of paper and all of a sudden it comes, with all the pictures, and it's real then. I get a huge kick out of it. I forget the hard work of it."

Dame Alison says she focuses on recipes that don't take all day to make, do not need too many ingredients and are not expensive - but are still good to eat.

"I think family life is enormously important, and I feel that it's quite hard for parents who are working to try to juggle everything," she says.

"I hope I have helped New Zealand women, because they are very hard-working and they fit an awful lot into the day."

Dame Alison has sold four million copies of her books, and her 99th and 100th will be published next year.

She has also raised more than $4 million for charities, including churches, playcentres, kindergartens and schools.

She is one of 164 New Zealanders recognised in today's New Year Honours.

Heading the list is golfer Sir Bob Charles, who becomes a Member of the Order of New Zealand, the country's highest honour.

Six new knights are appointed - philanthropist Ray Avery, former Court of Appeal judge David Baragwanath, Waikato businessman Bill Gallagher, jeweller Michael Hill, author James McNeish and educationist Tamati Reedy.

New Zealand's unbeaten performance at the soccer World Cup in South Africa this year has been recognised.

All Whites coach Ricki Herbert is appointed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and skipper Ryan Nelsen becomes an Officer of the order.