Robyn Watchorn loves nothing more than making other people's lives better.

Now, her tireless efforts have been acknowledged as she receives the Queen's Service Medal in today's New Year Honours list for services to the community and art.

"If you're going to have good community members in the future you have to have good role models," Watchorn said.

"I've always had a drive to make everybody else's lot a better one. That comes from spending three years in hospital as a teenager with bone diseases and the prognosis for the future was not very athletically or physically involved.


"Because of this [I] learned everything I could about communication and helping others and creativity because they expected me to be in a wheelchair when I was 45.

"However, modern science and spinal fusions and knee and hip replacements and leg-lengthening later, I've been able to utilise all those skills that I learned then in making everybody else's life better.

"And that I just love."

Watchorn has volunteered for a range of community groups in the wider Bay of Plenty region. At age 18, she was a founding member of the Te Puke Young Business Association in 1962 and the Ōhope Playcentre.

She has been a member of the Manchester Unity Friendly Society since 1962, including serving as the first female District Grand Master for the Auckland District in 1989, and has been the Secretary and President of the Waiōtahe Country Women's Institution, has been involved with Plunket, the Cubs, Scouts, Guides, Sunday School teaching, various school PTAs and committees, the Japanese Trust, and Toastmasters.

Watchorn has been president of the Eastern Bay of Plenty Justices of the Peace Association, president of the Whakatane Society of Arts and Crafts and a committee member of Whakatane Community Arts.

She has also knitted beanies for people affected by the Christchurch earthquakes and encouraged others in Whakatāne, sending several hundred beanies to the South Island. Using her artistic abilities Watchorn has created 149 unique camellia brooches for women elected to New Zealand Parliament to commemorate the 125th anniversary of suffrage.

Watchorn has also created LGBTQI+ rainbow brooches, forget-me-nots for Alzheimer's fundraising for Eastern Bay of Plenty, daffodils for cancer awareness, and kowhais for Hospice Eastern Bay of Plenty.


"As I've undertaken all these volunteer roles and positions, there have been a number of accolades collected along the way but that has never been the intention.

"As I see it, the more you put in the more you get out."