Queen's Birthday Honours 2020

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM)

■ David Ling, Mangawhai

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM)

■ Sandra Jenkins, Coopers Beach

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■ Maureen Lander, Ōmāpere

■ Donald McKay, Maungaturoto

■ Robert Webb, Whangārei

Companion of the Queen's Service Order (QSO)

■ Clare Wells, Waipū

Queen's Service Medal (QSM)

■ Alexa Whaley, Ōmāpere


Seven deserving Northlanders have been recognised for their tireless work and commitment to the community in the Queen's Birthday honours. The Northern Advocate celebrates their achievements and finds out about the years of hard work and dedication which have been done before receiving these well deserved accolades.

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David Ling, ONZM, of Mangawhai (right) received the Queen's Birthday honour for services to the publishing industry. Photo / Supplied
David Ling, ONZM, of Mangawhai (right) received the Queen's Birthday honour for services to the publishing industry. Photo / Supplied

David Ling, Mangawhai

Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the publishing industry

Accomplished publisher David Ling has dedicated 45 years of his life to literature, working alongside esteemed Kiwi authors and leaving his mark in the publishing industry.

After working the first 18 years of his career for multinational publishing companies, Ling started his own enterprise working from home in 1992 and over the years has worked on books by Witi Ihimaera, Paul Moon, Maurice Shadbolt, James McNeish, Michael King, Fiona Kidman, Janet Frame, Tessa Duder and hundreds of other writers.

Ling said when joining the industry in 1974 he was immediately hooked and even after editing and publishing countless books – including fiction, non-fiction, Māori and children's literature – he still hadn't any plans to retire.

"As you work with authors, it becomes a close experience. I've built up many friendships over the years. You also become a temporary expert on all sorts of subjects from books you've worked on. For a while, I knew a lot about the flora and fauna of Stewart Island and New Zealand earthquakes, for example."

As part of his career, Ling also travelled to book fairs around the globe – from Taipei to Bologna, to Frankfurt, New York and London. He said he felt "incredibly lucky" in his line of work.

David Ling Publishing Ltd, his independent publishing house, produces around 10 books each year.

He is an active member of the Publishers Association of New Zealand where he was a councillor for 13 years and was made an Honorary Life Member in 2011.

Ling said he loved his involvement with the association, especially because it got him out of the house to catch up with industry colleagues.

He launched a children's picture book imprint, Duck Creek Press, in 2010 and subsequently served on the management committee of the Storylines Children's Literature Trust for several years.

Duck Creek Press has since produced more than 50 books – including four of his own – and has gained an international reputation for the quality of its illustrated fiction.

David Ling has also served on management committees for the NZ Post Book Awards and New Zealand Post Children's Book Awards for several years.

Robert Webb, MNZM, QSM, of Whangārei received the honour for his services to wildlife conservation. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Robert Webb, MNZM, QSM, of Whangārei received the honour for his services to wildlife conservation. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Robert Webb, QSM, Whangārei

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to wildlife conservation

He has had a passion for wild birds all his life, but 27 years ago Robert Webb decided he could make a difference for hurt and vulnerable birds and launched the Whangārei Native Bird Recovery Centre.

Together with his wife Robyn, Webb has patched up thousands of birds over the years before releasing them back into the wild, making a huge contribution to the region's conservation work.

"I've never been paid for what I do – it's completely voluntary," Webb said. "Every year I ask for my pay to be doubled and our board agrees – double nothing is still nothing."

It all started when he used to drive down to Auckland as a truck driver and see injured birds on the side of the road.

He would pick them up and look after them until they were ready to return to their habitats. Before long he was caring for 30 birds at home and word soon spread that he was the man to go to if you found an injured bird.

Eventually, Webb built a relationship with the Department of Conservation and other volunteer groups and institutionalised his efforts with the Native Bird Recovery Centre.

"But seriously, I couldn't run the centre without Robyn – it's a shame she can't be included in the Award too. Why do women always seem to miss out?"

Webb's centre now includes a surgical unit, incubation room for hatching kiwi eggs, recovery pens, education centre and a hospital. There are also aviaries for birds too badly injured to be released into the wild.

It's not just Webb who has become famous, but some of his patients too.

He had a harrier hawk called Blue that he used to carry around on his arm, without a glove to protect his arm.

Another well-known bird was Morris the Minah, who would go missing and turn up at the Poroti pub 15km away where the publican would joke that he didn't serve "minors".

In recent years the centre has gained international stardom with a talking tui called Woof Woof and the much-loved one-legged kiwi Snoopy, who Webb would take around schools to help spread the conservation message.

Snoopy's work continues today with another one-legged kiwi called Sparky.

Often described as a "bird whisperer", Webb believes certain people are good with certain animals.

"I've always believed humans have a magnetic field or aura about them that animals can see. When a hawk comes in, I can handle it without gloves. I'm lucky to have that built into me."

As for the future, Webb, 73, said there was no time to retire just now. With the centre receiving more than 1300 birds a year, life is simply too busy and the birds too important.

"We get too much enjoyment from the birds to retire. Seeing a bird come into the centre, making it safe and then seeing it fly away again – you feel you achieved something in life…and that's the biggest reward."

Sandra Jenkins, MNZM, has been recognised for her services to education in New Zealand and abroad. Photo / supplied
Sandra Jenkins, MNZM, has been recognised for her services to education in New Zealand and abroad. Photo / supplied

Sandra Jenkins, Coopers Beach

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to education


It's not quite true to say that Sandra Jenkins has fully retired after more than 45 years of work in education.

She is no longer a teacher or principal, but continues to work on an international project in learning space design, albeit while supposedly putting her feet up with Philip, her husband of 47 years, in Coopers Beach.

The honour was exciting and humbling, she said.

"Being recognised by your peers is a most incredible thing. It's quite emotional really. It's something that happens to other people."

Jenkins entered teacher training at Ardmore at the age of 16, and at 19 was teaching.

Her first school was in Napier, where the father of MP Anne Tolley, with whom she went to school at Colenso College, was the headmaster, but it was a school "out the back of Waikaremoana" that provided some of her most vivid memories.

She met her future husband in Napier and the couple duly moved north where she taught at several schools in South Auckland. In her fourth year she was seconded to the Education Department, which exposed her to people who would become leaders in education, contributing to her developing skill-set, particularly in terms of teaching at-risk children, and the philosophy that would continue to evolve over her career.

Her move north began at Kohukohu, where she was the principal for almost a decade, followed by a similar stint at Mangonui, "both lovely schools".

With her four children having flown the coop, she returned to Auckland, ending her career at Freemans Bay, where she was told that a new hall was needed but set about building an entirely new $19 million school.

She has presented at various international conferences and discussions around the world, including in Australia, China, Denmark, India and the United Kingdom, between 2012 and 2019.

She was a Fellow of the Auckland Primary Principals' Association, chaired the Far North Principals' Association from 1993 to 2005, had been a representative or an appointed member of the New Zealand Educational Institute, the Principal Council, Rural Teaching Principal Network, APPA and the Auckland City Centre Network. She was a volunteer NZEI industrial advocate for schools in the Far North from 1993 to 2005, and became an Associate of NZEI in 2005. She was a foundation member of the Global School Alliance from 2012 to 2020.

She received the School Library Association of New Zealand's Principal's Award in 2019 and received a Waitemata Good Citizens' award in 2019 and was a Kiwi Bank Auckland Local Hero earlier this year.

Maureen Lander, MNZM, of Ōmāpere has been recognised for her contribution to Māori art. Photo / Nick Reed
Maureen Lander, MNZM, of Ōmāpere has been recognised for her contribution to Māori art. Photo / Nick Reed

Maureen Lander, Ōmāpere

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to Māori art

Maureen Lander is one of the country's leading exponents of raranga (weaving) and installation art.

The Rawene-born former primary school teacher, of Te Hikitu descent, started researching her Māori heritage in her 30s and went back to high school to study fifth-form art and te reo in her 40s.

She studied whatu kākahu (cloak-making) under the legendary weaver Diggeress Te Kanawa and started exhibiting her work in the mid-1980s; in 2002 she was the first person of Māori descent to graduate with a doctorate in fine arts from a New Zealand university.

Since retiring as a senior lecturer in Māori material culture at Auckland University in 2007 she has continued to mentor aspiring Māori artists and kairaranga (weavers) as well as exhibiting around New Zealand and the world.

Lander said career highlights included an exhibition in Oxford with her former art tutor called Mrs Cook's Kete, based on the idea that Captain Cook's wife secretly accompanied the explorer to New Zealand and collected kete (woven baskets); and her current touring show Flat-pack Whakapapa in which she collaborates with children and community groups.

Another highlight was mentoring a group of weavers at Pā Te Aroha Marae in Whirinaki to recreate the only known example of a traditional Māori sail, now housed in the British Museum. That project is still underway.

Lander suspected her nomination was related to her work with community groups.

''It's a great honour. It's a reflection of the communities I've been part of,'' she said.

Lander lived in Ōmāpere until last year. She now lives in Whangamata near one of her daughters and her mokopuna.

Her other awards include Toi Māori's inaugural Māori Academic Excellence Award in 2002.

Don McKay, MNZM, of Maungaturoto was recognised for his services to seniors and the community. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Don McKay, MNZM, of Maungaturoto was recognised for his services to seniors and the community. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Donald McKay, Maungaturoto

Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to seniors and the community

Right after Donald McKay moved to Maungaturoto around 40 years ago, he put up his hand to help out in the community – and his efforts haven't ceased until this day.

Since then, McKay has been one of the driving forces behind establishing aged-care and medical facilities in the township.

After initially joining the local Lions club in the early '80s, McKay, the Lions and the fire brigade put their forces and resources together to purchase the Maungaturoto post office building after its closure was announced.

"The writing on the wall was that the town was going to die."

Instead, the Lions and the fire brigade purchased the facilities, including the postmaster's office, and repurposed them into a medical centre and rest-home units.

Since establishing the Maungaturoto Community Charitable Trust (MCCT) which grew out of this joint effort and was chaired by McKay for 30 years, MCCT established a 14-bed rest home, 14 low-priced rental units, 14 further discounted housing units, and numerous rooms for doctors and other health professionals at low-cost.

"It just kept on going," McKay said. "Maungaturoto is one of those communities that just gets on and does its own thing. If you want to do something here, it's all hands-o."

McKay has also been a keen supporter of a local recreation farm, which provides a small golf course, a rugby field and a rehearsal studio for theatrical productions, as well as other facilities.

He said most community assets had been set up by the locals, and while the Maungaturoto community had significantly changed over the years, McKay still loved living there.

McKay said he accepted the honour on behalf of the people he worked alongside.

"It's been a rewarding journey for me."

And the journey is far from over. Currently, McKay is aspiring to set up a dementia unit in Maungaturoto, which he described as a big challenge.

Clare Wells, QSM, of Waipū has been recognised for her for services to early childhood education. Photo / Michael Cunningham
Clare Wells, QSM, of Waipū has been recognised for her for services to early childhood education. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Clare Wells, Waipū

Companion of the Queen's Service Order for services to early childhood educatio

Clare Wells is known among her peers and beyond for her extensive work in the early childhood education (ECE) sector over the past 40 years.

In various roles Wells inhabited during her career, she has been advocating for quality education along with appropriate curricula and the recognition of early childhood teachers.

"I started life as a kindergarten teacher in the '70s and taught for about 10 years, but I spent most of my time working on policy," Wells said. "I feel very privileged working in the area of early childhood education."

She said for many years the sector was divided between child care and education until Wells and her colleagues managed to merge both in the '80s which took "a lot of political will", as Wells described.

In the early '90s, New Zealand's first ECE curriculum was established.

"The critical aspect is that it is founded by New Zealand's cultural heritage and based around the family as a whole."

Wells is currently a board member of the Teaching Council of Aotearoa New Zealand and Te Rito Maioha Early Childhood New Zealand.

She has bolstered these organisations through her well-established early childhood networks as well as her involvement in cross-sector initiatives and advisory groups.

Until last year, Wells was the chief executive of New Zealand Kindergartens. For years, Wells has been campaigning for the development of a qualified and progressive teaching workforce, and a partnership with government that supports the growth of community-based services.

She said the latest boost for ECE including the teachers in the 2020 Budget was hearting to see.

Wells is also well known for her collaborative leadership style, and she was instrumental in the development of the first early learning strategic plan in the early 2000s.

Alexa Whaley of Omapere, QSM, has been recognised for her work researching and preserving Hokianga's rich history. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Alexa Whaley of Omapere, QSM, has been recognised for her work researching and preserving Hokianga's rich history. Photo / Peter de Graaf

Alexa Whaley, Ōmāpere

Queen's Service Medal for services to historical research and heritage preservation

Alexa Whaley has lived and breathed Hokianga history for more than 30 years.

The 86-year-old was a key member of the volunteer group which breathed new life into the Hokianga Historical Society in the 1990s.

She was the driving force behind the new Hokianga Museum and Archives Centre which opened in Ōmāpere in 2010 after the old building was claimed by coastal erosion. She developed the layout, applied for grants and raised money for its fit-out.

She has been the society's principal researcher for 30 years, an executive member for 28 years and the museum's curator for 20. She is a life member of the society and has been writing its newsletters for two decades.

Whaley said she had agonised for a week before accepting the honour.

It really belonged to everyone in the ''wonderful team'' that reinvigorated the society in the 1990s — in particular Alec and Shirley Griffiths and her late husband Owen — but she was the only one left.

Whaley's connection with Hokianga started on her honeymoon. Later, while working in Auckland Library's New Zealand and Pacific Room, she immersed herself in the area's history, ''and it just went from there''.

The couple bought land at Ōmāpere in the 1970s and moved north in the 80s.

The history of the Hokianga was underplayed and unknown compared to that of the Bay of Islands but had ''just so much more going on'', she said.

Whaley has also been a member of Hokianga Rural Women for 17 years and secretary of South Hokianga St John from 2005-2011. She is a St John caring caller for the elderly and a support person for the Mainly Music programme for pre-school children.

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