Nearly 41 years straight as a district councillor in Rotorua has earned Trevor Maxwell a special Local Government New Zealand award.

Rotorua Lakes Council's cultural ambassador has this afternoon been presented with the Minister of Local Government Excellence Award for Outstanding Contribution to Local Government.

The award was presented at the local government annual conference in Christchurch by Local Government Minister Nanaia Mahuta.

Maxwell has been a member on the council since 1977 and was deputy mayor from 2002-2013.

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Maxwell told the Rotorua Daily Post tonight he was honoured to receive the award, especially since Mahuta said she had "rushed" back from Scotland to present the award.

Maxwell said he thanked the late Sir Peter Tapsell for "putting a nomination form under his nose" an hour before the election's cut off in 1977.

He said the only time he had thought about not standing for the council was during his first term.

"I wondered 'what have I got myself into?' During that time the fluoride issue came out and I was getting phone calls in the middle of the night and the Springboks tour was a biggie for me as a rugby fan and having a relation, Hika Reid, in the All Blacks. Our council was faced with voting against allowing them to play on our fields."

However, nearly 41 years later, he said he wouldn't have it any other way.

"You win some, you lose some but you feel like you're making a difference."

He said he had been honoured to work with some great leaders, including the late Johnny Lepper and John Keaney as well as Grahame Hall and current mayor Steve Chadwick, who he described as a "rock".

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Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull said Maxwell was a role model for his community and local government and the award was well-deserved.

"Trevor has shown an outstanding commitment to the sector. He has dedicated his life to his whanau, hapū and iwi and continues to stay involved at grassroots level as well as continuing to contribute at a high level around the council table," Cull said.