Jonathan Donald Wilkinson, of Ruakaka, has been appointed a Member of the Order of New Zealand.

The man people know as Jonny said he was ''surprised and somewhat proud'' at the news of his Queen's Birthday Honour for services to people with disabilities.

''It's really nice to get such a public validation of the work I've been doing.

''I simply thought I was doing my job.''


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It's a serious milestone in the life of a man who enjoys not always taking things seriously. As anyone who knows him will attest, Wilkinson manages to find a lot to laugh about.

A regular columnist in the Northern Advocate's 48 Hours weekend section, his opinion pieces — offering his often wry and mostly self-deprecating point of from the vantage point of his mobility scooter — have raised a few eyebrows among readers.

"I guess I am turning some heads for the right reasons for a change."

A selection of those columns are being published this week as an e-book, titled Jonny on the Spot.

His Queen's Birthday Honour has been awarded for his governance and advocacy role as well as practical work into making the social environment more disability friendly.

Born with cerebral palsy, he understands the need for that.

''It's my family and friends who've made my life less disabling,'' he said.


Wilkinson founded and is chief executive of Tiaho Trust, the Northland disabled-led advocacy and information sharing organisation.

Alongside and within Tiaho are 15 organisations he corralled to become the Northland Disability Information and Advisory Services Collective.

Among many achievements, he has brokered deals between transport providers and the Ministry of Education to get disabled children to and from school and established disability-friendly Dovetail Tourism, to ensure disabled people have rewarding tourism experiences in Northland.

He established the annual International Day of the Disabled Person in Whangārei, and had New Zealand sign language included in Waitangi Day ceremonies.

Wilkinson sits on or chairs a host of boards at regional and national level, and is a member of the working party reviewing New Zealand's Disability Strategy.