Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has paid tribute to “the epitome of a public servant” in Dr Ashley Bloomfield as she reflected on the 2023 New Year’s Honours list announced today.
“Sir Ashley Bloomfield was absolutely central to our world-leading response to Covid-19,” Ardern said.
Bloomfield was New Zealand’s top public health official for the vast majority of our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, until he stood down from the role in July 2022.
The 56-year-old will now become a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit as part of the New Year 2023 Honours - the top recognition among the list of 183 recipients.
Ardern first and foremost acknowledged Bloomfield in a press release this morning, touching on the Covid-19 public health response the former director general of health oversaw to ensure New Zealand has one of the lowest death rates from the virus internationally.
“He was completely dedicated to protecting New Zealanders’ health and did so in such a calm and considered way. He has been the epitome of a public servant,” Ardern said
Bloomfield stepped down from his role at the end of July, almost a year before his five-year term was due to end in June 2023.
But from early 2020, Bloomfield fronted more than 300 press conferences and was tasked with providing advice on a range of unprecedented and previously inconceivable measures including lockdowns, border closures and vaccine mandates.
Parallel to Bloomfeild’s individual recognition, Ardern announced a specific acknowledgment for Covid-19 frontline workers would be part of the 2023 Honours list.
The award will be given to up to 80,000 front line Covid-19 workers, and will take the form of a lapel pin.
Ardern said the award has been designed to be in keeping with the likes of military service and earlier this year indicated MIQ workers would be the first confirmed recipients of it.
“Collectively these individuals made an enormous contribution, whether it was through containing and stamping out Covid-19, putting protections in place to keep people safe, or caring for those who caught the virus,” Ardern said.
“They stepped up, often at great personal risk and sacrifice, and we owe them a debt of gratitude for carrying that burden on behalf of us all.”
Ardern confirmed the further recipients of the award will be the border, testing, contact tracing and vaccination workforces along with the doctors and nurses who cared for patients with Covid-19.
Ardern also made special note of Black Fern great, Professor Farah Palmer, who was among the six top 2023 New Years Honours recipients in becoming a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to sport, particularly rugby.
Fifty-year-old Palmer is a three-time World Cup-winning Black Ferns captain turned New Zealand Rugby vice-chairwoman.
“Dame Farah Palmer’s shoulders are those on which the success of the current Black Ferns squad was built,” Ardern said.
“The winner of three Rugby World Cup titles herself, she wasn’t content with just inspiring on the field and through her role as a rugby administrator has been instrumental in building the women’s game to the success it is now.”
Sports Minister Grant Robertson also heaped praise on Palmer as an “icon of the game”.
“Her contribution on and off the field has inspired and enabled women and men to achieve greatness,” Robertson said.
“In this year of a World Cup win for the Black Ferns it is only fitting that she is acknowledged in this way.”
Since retiring from rugby in 2006 Palmer has fashioned a distinguished governance career. She started with her local Manawatū union and gradually progressed through the ranks to break the glass ceiling as the first woman on the New Zealand Rugby board in 2016. She is also a Professor at Massey University.
Robertson also acknowledged the appointments as Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit for multiple Olympic and world champion rowers Hamish Bond and Eric Murray, and former Silver Fern coach and longtime netball administrator Leigh Gibbs.
“Hamish and Eric have an unparalleled record, having been undefeated between 2009 and 2016, with 69 consecutive wins together. Leigh has given 50 years of service to netball at the highest level, and at the grassroots of the game,” Robertson said.
Minister for Pacific People Aupito William Sio has this morning also identified the unique personal journey of former premier of Niue Young Vivian - who has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
Young Vivian was the leader of Niue in the 1990s and 2000s, led the response to Cyclone Heta and oversaw the construction of Niue’s Foou Hospital. He has been made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.
“Young Vivian has been a great voice for Niue’s culture and language,” Sio said.
Ardern also made individual mention of all of the six top knight and dame 2023 New Year Honours recipients.
“The 2023 New Year honours list is full of leaders and pioneers whose contribution has enriched us a country and helped make us unique in the world,” Ardern said.
Dr Janice Claire Wright will become a dame for services to the state and the environment.
“Our environment is central our identity as a country and Dame Jan Wright has been a tireless advocate for its protection,” Ardern said.
“As Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment her robust and independent reports on climate change and freshwater quality have informed policy and leave a legacy.”
Markus Dunajtschik will become a knight for services to philanthropy. Dunajtschik came to New Zealand as a toolmaker in 1958 and has become a property entrepreneur and philanthropist.
“Sir Mark Dunajtschik’s philanthropic contribution to health services has made a real difference to so many. His financial support to build a new children’s hospital in Wellington as well as replacing a mental health facility in the Hutt Valley are but two of his significant and selfless contributions to the health and wellbeing of his community.”
Miranda Catherine Millais Harcourt will become a dame for services to the screen industry and theatre.
“Dame Miranda Harcourt has provided a heart and backbone to our theatre and screen industries for decades,” Ardern said.
“A familiar on screen face to many, she has also been a driving force behind the scenes, bringing new talent to domestic and global attention as the Head of Acting at Toi Whakaari the New Zealand Drama School and as an acting coach and mentor to some our most successful actors and directors. This year she won the Kea World Class New Zealander supreme award for accelerating the connection of the performing arts scene in New Zealand with the wider global community.”
Dr Haare Mahanga Te Wehinga Williams will become a knight for services to Māori literature and education.
“Sir Haare Williams is a pioneer of Māori broadcasting and has played a key role in the development of te reo speakers in the film and television industry,” Ardern said.
“Ensuring te reo Māori is published, spoken and performed is critical to its revitalisation and few have made such a significant contribution across academia and media to achieve that goal.”