A recurring criticism of this country is that it fails to acknowledge the importance of its business leaders. Too often, that judgment has been underlined by the scant attention paid to their contribution in lists of national honours. When it comes to recognising public service in all its forms, sports stars and artists, for example, have tended to have had a higher profile. Indeed, until today not one businessman or woman featured in the current membership of the Order of New Zealand, our highest award and one limited to 20 living citizens at any one time. Happily, this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list goes some way towards redressing that imbalance.

Most obviously, that is done through the elevation of Sir Ron Carter to the Order. This is extremely well merited given the impact that his business leadership and engineering skills have had on the country. While transforming a small engineering consultancy into today's Beca Group, one of New Zealand and Australia's most successful consulting businesses, he was behind some of the country's most significant infrastructure projects. Included were the Tasman Pulp and Paper mill, the Motonui gas to petrol plant and the Comalco aluminium smelter. More recently, he was part of the brains trust that devised the 20-year national infrastructure plan.

There is also acknowledgment of business excellence in the creation of four new knights and three new dames. Among these is Sir Robert Stewart, founder of Skope Industries, the Christchurch-based company that makes world-leading commercial refrigerators.

Sharing the same accolade is Sir Graeme Avery. His high-profile involvement in athletics has perhaps obscured an even longer career as a successful entrepreneur, including the development of Adis International, a medical publishing company, and, more recently, the establishment of a wine business, Sileni Estates, in Hawkes Bay.


Dame Patsy Reddy is also recognised for service in two fields, the arts and business. Currently the chairwoman of the Film Commission, she has held a large number of high-profile directorships, including Air New Zealand, Telecom, SkyCity and New Zealand Post.

The role of business is also acknowledged further down the list. Norah Barlow, the chief executive of retirement village developer Summerset Group Holdings, becomes an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit, as does Tony Caughey, a strong advocate for the inclusion of enterprise and business studies in the school curriculum.

The impact that a person's business expertise can have on a community is recognised in the same deserved honour for Ian Kearney. Nelson has been the beneficiary, through his leadership of energy and airport enterprises and championing of education initiatives.

Business leaders tend to wait a long time for recognition in honours lists. But those lists become so much more relevant when a substantial achievement is acknowledged immediately. Such seems much more often to be the case for sportsmen and women. In this case, basketballer Dillon Boucher is made a Member of the Order of Merit for a playing career that culminated in the Breakers' three consecutive Australian NBL titles. In a similar vein, Geoff Robinson has been appointed an Officer of the Order immediately after ending a stint of more than 30 years as a radio presenter.

Such names are known to the vast majority of people. But, as always, the 180 recipients in this list include a large number of people whose good deeds have previously attracted little or no attention. They, as much as anyone else, deserve the country's thanks. But so, too, do the business leaders who make this year's Queen's Birthday list that little bit more authentic.