Their age and experiences are far apart, but Olympic and world shotput champion Valerie Vili and Major Hone Waititi, the only surviving company commander of the 28th Maori Battalion, have one thing in common - both brought honour to their country.

Yesterday, their country honoured them as they joined business, sport, medical, arts and community leaders at an investiture ceremony in Auckland.
Some of the country's top business, sports, medical, arts and community leaders have been honoured at a ceremony in Auckland.

The first batch of up to 77 people to receive the country's top honours were recognised at an investiture ceremony at Government House yesterday.

Among them were top businessman Tony Gibbs and actress Mabel Wharekawa-Burt.

Vili, made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to athletics, said the day had been one of reflection.

"When I first got asked [to accept the award], I was just thinking about doing this in the last 10 years - it's been a massive ride."

Being honoured alongside some of the country's top people was another reason to celebrate.

"It's pretty amazing to be sitting right next to them. I'm very happy, very honoured. It goes to show how much your country appreciates you."

Family and friends joined the 18 people honoured at yesterday's ceremony.

Governor-General Sir Anand Satyanand paid tribute to each of them, calling for New Zealanders to use their success as an inspiration to do the same.

"If we, other New Zealanders, can learn from you, our highest achievers, we too can stand on the shoulders of giants.

"On behalf of all New Zealanders, I congratulate you and thank you for all you have done for this country."

Major Waititi, who was made a companion of the Queen's Service Order, received the award for his services to the community, including being a founding trustee of a number of land trusts including the Te Arawhata Trust and Te Haha Station Trust.

He said he never expected to be recognised in such a "flash" way.

"I never ever thought I'd get something like this. Maybe a little badge, but this is a bit over the top. Really feels good," he said.

Husband and wife team Dr Kantilal and Ranjna Patel - who were both given a Queen's Service Medal - were honoured for their work in providing one of the country's largest community healthcare clinics for Maori and Pacific Islanders in South Auckland and for their work in the Indian community.

* Honoured New Zealanders
COMPANION OF THE NEW ZEALAND ORDER OF MERIT (C.N.Z.M):

Mr Tony Gibbs for services to business.

Professor Ronald Jones for services to women's health.

THE QUEEN'S SERVICE ORDER (Q.S.O):

The Honourable Clem Simich for services as a member of Parliament.

Major (retired) Hone Waititi J.P, for services to the community.

OFFICER OF THE NEW ZEALAND ORDER OF MERIT (O.N.Z.M):

Mrs Valerie Kasanita Vili for services to athletics.

Dr Robert Welch for services to biotechnology.

MEMBER OF THE NEW ZEALAND ORDER OF MERIT (M.N.Z.M):

Mrs Toesulu Brown for services to the Pacific Island community.

Mr Cameron Leslie for services to swimming.

Professor Janis Swan for services to engineering.

Mrs Jennifer Vernon for services to the community.

Mrs Mabel Wharekawa-Burt for services to the performing arts and the community.

THE QUEEN'S SERVICE MEDAL (Q.S.M):

Mrs Laurie Burdett E.D, for services to the community.

Dr Eleanor Carmichael for services to the community.

Mr Gordon McDowell for services to returned services personnel.

Dr Kantilal Patel for services to community medicine and the Indian community.

Mrs Ranjna Patel J.P., for services to the Indian community.

Mrs Mere Selwyn for services to Maori and the community.

Mr Kenneth Williamson O.St.J, J.P, for services to the community.