"Keep believing" was the message former executive director of the SPCA Robert Kerridge gave after becoming an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit today at the Epsom Government House.

"If you believe in what you'll do then you'll do the best you can which is all you can do," Kerridge told the Herald.

The 79-year-old was awarded for his services to animal welfare and governance which highlighted developing Outreach Therapy Pets and establishing the New Zealand Companion Animal Council.

Kerridge said he couldn't help feeling overwhelmed and emotional throughout the ceremony as everything he had done had been for his love of animals.

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"This to me was very special because it recognises not only what I have done for animals but it recognises animals as having a place in society."

He said his passion stemmed from when he was a boy and his mother gave him a cocker spaniel.

"That was the first love of my life, and that's when I developed great empathy for animals, that I've never lost."

Kerridge became the executive director of the Auckland Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) in 1984 and continued in that role until 2016.

In this capacity he greatly increased public awareness of animal welfare.

He served as national president of the Royal New Zealand SPCA from 2010 to 2013. He has been a member of the New Zealand World Society for the Protection of Animals Board and the St John Auckland Trust Board and Priory.

In 2008, he set up the SPCA Cat Coalition to support volunteer efforts to assist stray cats.

He was founding chairman of Companion Animal Workshops and, in association with the New Zealand Veterinary Association, he established the New Zealand Companion Animal Council in 1997.

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Through the NZCAC he has introduced micro-chipping of pets, the New Zealand Companion Animal Register in 2007 and the New Zealand Companion Animal Trust in 2008.

Black Ferns captain Seiuli Fiao'o Faamausili with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy after being awarded the NZ Order of Merit for her services to rugby. Photo / Supplied
Black Ferns captain Seiuli Fiao'o Faamausili with Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy after being awarded the NZ Order of Merit for her services to rugby. Photo / Supplied

Black Ferns captain Seiuli Fiao'o Faamausili was also awarded the insignia of an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to rugby.

Faamausili was the most capped Black Fern with 52 caps. She has represented New Zealand at five Rugby Women's World Cup tournaments, helping the team to win four titles.

She has also been involved with Cure Kids New Zealand and has contributed to the grassroots of rugby.