Like most who are given the same gong, Mangonui man Anthony (Tony) Norman said he felt honoured to have been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the community and wondered why he had been nominated.

Then, looking at his fellow nominees achievements alongside a list of his own, he realised "Well, maybe I have done something."

That "something" includes being the current Northland District Health Board chairman, a music and arts supporter, school board member and accountant who offers his services to a range of community groups pro bono - all things to keep his mind ticking over.

"I had the good luck to retire at 51, and I realised I wanted to make the most of my time by helping people," said Mr Norman, who worked in finance in Asia for 30 years before returning to New Zealand in 2001.


"It started in little Mangonui where there was a crisis in the tourist promotional trust," he said. The treasurer had embezzled money required for a tourist brochure, and Mr Norman rallied the community into raising money for the printing costs. That got him noticed and nominated for the Doubtless Bay community board seat, an election he won unopposed.

He also volunteers to "do the books" for local groups like the Kerikeri International Piano Competition, the Taipa Sailing Club and the Mangonui Maritime Community Trust.

A classical music concert he has organised and staged on his verandah in Mangonui for around eight years is so popular he's considering keeping the date a secret - but heads up, it might not be in February this year, the month his son Anton is moving away to university.

Mr Norman was also on the board of trustees at Oruaiti School when his son was a pupil there.-

"I get satisfaction at helping people make the best of themselves," Mr Norman said.

He is also former chairman of Far North Holdings.