A Kaikohe man's mission to steer young people in his town has been recognised with the Queen's Service Medal for services to youth.

For years Anthony Warren, a power lifter and boxing trainer from Otaua, would see young people hanging around with nothing to do as he drove through Kaikohe on his way to work at a Kerikeri gym. When he drove home again in the evening they'd still be there.

That lack of opportunities for youth in Kaikohe compared to the more affluent east coast towns troubled him, so when he retired he set about realising his dream of converting a one-time pub into a boxing and fitness gym, to boost young people's fitness, reduce health problems such as obesity and improve engagement at school, while steering them away from drugs, crime and gangs.

Te Mira (The Mill) opened in Kaikohe in 2010, and is now used by 500 young people a month. Run by volunteers, it is free for youth aged 10 until they leave school, for pensioners and those with health conditions such as diabetes.

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The costs are covered by adult membership fees and business sponsors.

Mr Warren said the QSM was recognition for the volunteers who worked in the gym day after day.

"I just happen to be the guy who started it. I'll get to wear the bit of medal on my chest, but it belongs to a lot of people," he said.

It was also good for Kaikohe.

"The big newspapers only call us when something goes wrong, but so much goes right. There's not a lot of money in this town, but the support you get is as great, if not greater, than anywhere."

Mr Warren, who saw service in Malaya, Borneo and the Philippines in the 1960s, said he was "totally surprised" by the honour and had no idea who had nominated him.

Keeping it secret hadn't been easy, and he had had to tell a couple of people before Monday's announcement.

"I'd be in trouble if I didn't tell my wife," he said.

Te Mira, which won the 2012 supreme Transpower Far North community award, also works with the police, Corrections, the courts, schools, mental health groups and the local medical centre to set up youth intervention schemes, and partners with businesses to provide work experience and cadetships.