Alexa Whaley has received her Queen's Service Medal, conferred in the Queen's Birthday honours list, for services to historical research and heritage preservation.
Alongside her late husband Owen Whaley, the 86-year-old Ōmāpere resident has been a devoted and dedicated member of the Hokianga Historical Society for many years, assisting many people with their research into Hokianga people, places and events.
She was described having lived and breathed Hokianga history for more than 30 years. She was a key member of the volunteer group that gave the Hokianga Historical Society a new lease on life in the 1990s, and 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, developing the layout, applying for grants and raising 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.
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Whaley said when her honour was announced that she had agonised for a week before accepting it.
It really belonged to everyone in the "wonderful team" that reinvigorated the society in the 1990s, but she was the only one left, she said.
Her connection with Hokianga began on her honeymoon. Later, while working in Auckland Library's New Zealand and Pacific Room, she immersed herself in the area's history. The couple bought land at Ōmāpere in the 1970s and moved north in the 1980s.
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.
She has also been a member of Hokianga Rural Women for 17 years, and was secretary of South Hokianga St John from 2005 to 2011. She is a St John caring caller for the elderly, and a support person for pre-school children.
She received her medal at Government House in Auckland, where she was supported by family and friends.