A Hawera conservationist and the driving force behind the Nowells Lake Development has been given a Queen's Service Medal.

Doug Hutchinson has been honoured for services to conservation and the community.
"I'm quite delighted, actually," he said. "It's quite an honour. I was quite surprised I got singled out but certainly proud of receiving it.

"It sort of comes in a special way [in] that it acknowledges the things I've done and for those people that helped support me ... certainly my family, particularly my wife."

Hutchinson has led the charge to develop Nowells Lake on Fonterra-owned land on Hawera's outskirts.

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"It sort of came about when I was president of the local Rotary club and I was also engineering manager at Kiwi Dairy Company," he said.

"I had done a lot of work with the environmental manager in setting up our environmental protection systems at the factory. One day she came to me and she said, 'Look Doug, I've got 7500 trees to plant in a gully that we're retiring from farming and I'm struggling to get them planted, can the Rotary club help'?"

That's when he came up with the idea to involve local school children from Hawera and South Taranaki to help plant all the trees. He involved others in the community as well.
He got financial backing from Fonterra and over the past 14 years more than 20,000 trees and grasses have been planted. A walkway and seats have also been built.

Hutchinson was a mentor for the Big Brother Big Sister organisation from 2009 to 2016 and through that he also became involved with Hawera Christian School, where he volunteered as caretaker for three years. It meant the caretaker wages could be freed up for other school activities.

He is also a promoter of vaccination after his experience contracting polio disease when he was a child.

"That's come about because I had some fairly serious childhood illnesses myself, including polio. Probably that experience in hospital when I was younger for quite a number of years has formed my attitude towards life and personality.

"When we moved to Hawera when I was young — because I had two other brothers also crippled — we were rather destitute and it was the local community that came in and helped us. So I've always regarded my work in helping the community as payback."

He was involved with a group of others who suffered from the disease and they wrote a book about their experience. He came up with the idea to set up the Ethel Gray Charitable Trust with proceeds from the book.

"Because there seemed to be a lot of people not fully understanding the risks of not immunising [children].

"We've been able to be another voice to help the Taranaki District Health Board. That's been a big payback ... it's increased the level of immunisation especially in Taranaki."