6.00am - By ANNE BESTON

The rehabilitation of former Prime Minister David Lange appears complete today after the award of the country's top honour in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list.

Recovering from an infection linked to a rare blood disorder, Mr Lange said he was surprised and "gratified" by the Labour-led Government's decision to appoint him to the Order of New Zealand.

"It's very much a bolder act for a Labour-led Government to give it to me because, in one respect, the Government of Helen Clark has had to live down the excesses of change which '84 to '89 brought," he said.


"It would have been more convenient to forget and that's why I'm particularly gratified. It means we are getting a sense of historical perspective."

Ordinary membership of the Order, an institution introduced by Mr Lange's Government in 1987, is limited to 20 living people.

Former Prime Ministers Jim Bolger and Mike Moore beat Mr Lange to the honour by some years - Mr Bolger in 1997 and Mr Moore in 1999.

Mr Lange said that although his Government's economic reforms had hurt people, particularly the old, the public tended to forget just how over-regulated New Zealand was pre-1984.

"It's very hard to explain to a young person you couldn't get ten Australian dollars without a ticket to Sydney," he said.

Mr Lange was born in Otahuhu in 1942, and, after graduating from Auckland University, practised law before turning to politics.

He was elected Labour MP for Mangere in 1977 and seven years later became one of New Zealand's youngest Prime Ministers at the age of 41.

The Fourth Labour Government cut a swathe of reform through New Zealand's economic institutions. In 1989, Mr Lange famously suggested a pause for "a cup of tea".


His relationship with Finance Minister Roger Douglas broke down and Mr Lange resigned as Prime Minister. He retired from Parliament in 1996.

Despite his health problems, the man famous for his razor-sharp wit hasn't lost his sense of humour.

"Jonah and I have something in common, I've given up rugby too," he said.

Pioneering scientist William Pickering, 92, who was responsible for the United States' first satellite and led its unmanned deep space research, becomes an Honorary Member of the Order.

The New Zealand-born and educated scientist received the honorary appointment as he is a US citizen.

It is the latest of many international honours recognising his work, including an honorary New Zealand knighthood.

He was director of the California Institute of Technology's Jet Propulsion Laboratory from 1954 to 1976. In 1958 the laboratory was transferred to Nasa with responsibility for the unmanned exploration of the moon and planets.

He returned to New Zealand in March to unveil a monument in Havelock, near Blenheim, that honours him and atomic physicist Lord Rutherford and to receive an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, Canterbury University.

Four people are made Distinguished Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit: Dunedin stockbroker Eion Edgar, women's affairs campaigner Alison Roxburgh, Maori leader Archie Taiaroa and artist Robin White.

Others honoured from the world of arts and entertainment include playwright Roger Hall and TV personality Paul Holmes, both appointed Companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit (CNZM), film producer John Barnett, jazz band leader Rodger Fox and opera singer Patrick Power, all Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

Jim McLay, who was briefly Sir Robert Muldoon's Deputy Prime Minister in 1984 and served as New Zealand Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission for the past nine years, is appointed a CNZM for his services to conservation.

Former Council of Trade Unions secretary Angela Foulkes is made an ONZM.