Nearly 200 Kiwis have been recognised in the 2023 New Year Honours list, including six new dames and knights.
Sportspeople, researchers, advocates and doctors are among the 183 being celebrated for their achievements today.
Of those on the list, 126 have been appointed to the New Zealand Order of Merit, four were made companions of the Queen’s Service Order, 49 were given the Queen’s Service Medal, one the New Zealand Antarctic Medal and three the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration.
Dr Ashley Bloomfield, who steered the country’s much-lauded Covid-19 response, has been made a knight companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to public health.
Throughout the pandemic, Bloomfield was the Director-General of Health and worked under intense scrutiny for two years to drive and implement major policy decisions that have underpinned New Zealand’s response to Covid-19.
Bloomfield led the rollout of the country’s most ambitious vaccination programme, through which more than 90 per cent of eligible New Zealanders were fully vaccinated.
“I was surprised when the email came through, and I did a double take and I had to get my wife to come and have a look just to check that I’d read it correctly, so it’s a huge honour, it’s a big thing,” he told the Herald.
“Family are thrilled, but in many respects nothing changes, I’m still the same person.”
Receiving the honour, he said, was a huge privilege and he thanked all Kiwis for their role in the pandemic response.
“I look back with a sense of pride, not in so much what I did, but just in what we achieved as a country.”
Also among the six new dames and knights companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit are Miranda Harcourt, for services to the screen industry and theatre, and Dr Haare Mahanga Te Wehinga Williams for services to Māori, literature and education.
Three-time Rugby World Cup-winning Black Ferns captain, Professor Farah Palmer, Ngāti Maniapoto, has been made dame companion for her work with sport, particularly rugby.
Palmer has held a variety of governance roles since retiring as a player in 2006 and became the first woman on the New Zealand Rugby Board in 2016, before being elected deputy chairwoman in 2021.
She is currently the chairwoman of the New Zealand Māori Rugby Board and is president of the New Zealand Rugby Museum. In 2022, she was appointed as pou ākonga (executive director) Māori Student Success at Massey University and previously was associate dean Māori for Massey Business School from 2018.
Her research and service focus on the intersection of Māori and gender identities in high-performance sport, sport for development, and organisational and leadership contexts.
Palmer said she received a letter with the good news during the afterglow of the Rugby World Cup.
“Initially it’s like, would you consider it, and I’m never one to single out a person, especially in a team situation, or when you’re part of a board or part of a movement, so I was umming and ahhing for ages.”
In the end, Palmer accepted the honour for her “mum and dad” who might be really proud, and those who have gone before her, particularly in women’s rugby.
“I feel very humbled.
“This honour represents all those trailblazers in women’s rugby and Māori rugby who work hard behind the scenes.”
Fellow academic Dr Jan Wright has also been made a dame for her services to the state and the environment, and Mark Dunajtschik a knight for his various contributions to philanthropic causes and charities for more than 40 years.
New companions of the New Zealand Order of Merit include top rowers Eric Murray and Hamish Bond. Bond and Murray won gold medals in the coxless pair at the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games, setting both world and Olympic records at the London Olympics.
Both men were made members of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013.
Michele A’Court has been made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, recognising her trailblazing work and advocacy in comedy.
The multi-award-winning comedian established the New Zealand Comedy Guild. She has also advocated for access and safety within the comedy community and provided practical assistance to many New Zealand comedians building their careers.
Pānia Papa was also made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Māori language education and broadcasting in Aotearoa.
Papa, Ngāti Korokī Kahukura, Ngāti Mahuta, supported the revitalisation of te reo Māori as an award-winning television presenter, Māori language consultant, curriculum and resource designer, translator, and editor for the broadcasting industry and education sector.
She’s lectured in Māori Studies at Waikato University for 10 years and among many other achievements, has translated 12 children’s books into te reo, composed more than 40 waiata and authored the children’s lullaby anthology Pita Mata.
Papa was also a founding trustee of the charity supporting the Kotahi Rau Pukapuka plan to publish 100 books in Māori over 25 years.
Snow sport athletes Nico Porteous and Zoi Sadowski-Synnott have been appointed members of the New Zealand Order of Merit for their service to snow sports.
At 16 Porteous won a bronze medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics and won gold at the 2021 X Games and became New Zealand’s first Freeski Halfpipe World Champion the same year.
This year he won gold in both the freeski halfpipe at the United States Grand Prix World Cup and the Superpipe during the X Games.
Sadowski-Synnott was the second New Zealander to win a Winter Olympic medal with her bronze in the women’s big air event at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
She won gold in the slopestyle at the 2022 Winter Olympics, becoming New Zealand’s first gold medallist at a Winter Olympics.
During that competition, she also won a silver medal in the big air event.