A man who has kayaked and waded the waterways of the Hikurangi catchment has received royal acknowledgement for his efforts to ''turn the waka around''.

Millan Ruka, who has championed the need to improve fresh water quality, has been made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to conservation.

He was presented with his Queen's Honour by Governor-General Patsy Reddy at Government House in Auckland yesterday.

Ruka was accompanied by a large group from his family, hapu and other supporters.

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''I'm proud that this mahi has been recognised because I'm not the only one, this isn't just for me,'' he said.

Ruka said he was ''driven'' partly by memories of when people ''could throw the kids in the water anywhere, have a drink from streams anywhere''.

''You can't do that now. New Zealand has an abundance of water, we have more than most countries, but 95 per cent of the rivers and streams, you can't drink from them.

''If we don't turn the waka around now, what will it look like in another 10 years?''

It has been a big week for Ruka.

On Monday he accepted a role offered by Environment Minister David Parker to sit on the Kahui Wai Māori Advisory group that will help inform the Government's blueprint to improve freshwater quality.

Ruka started Environment River Patrol Aotearoa in 2010, spurred by the poor quality of water around his whanau land at Kokopu.

As well as river patrols, fish surveys and pushing for tougher measures to fence stock from waterways, he has written at least 1000 reports and submissions for resource consents, inquiries, central and local government policy planning, Waitangi Tribunal hearings, businesses and media.

Ruka and the Whatitiri Maori Reserve Trust, representing Te Uriroroi, Te Parawhau and Te Mahurehure ki Whatitiri hapu, played a leading role in ending Auckland bottling company Zodiac Holdings' plan to take up to 2.5 million litres a day from Poroti Springs.

That three decade battle was resolved this year when Zodiac's land and consents were bought by the Crown and land banked.

Other Northlanders presented with honours this week were:
Samara Nicholas, of Whangarei, MNZM, for services to marine conservation and education; Jonathan Wilkinson, of Whangarei, MNZM, for services to people with disabilities; Peter Crawford, of Whangarei, QSM, for services to the community and sport; Dr Carolyn Peters, of Whangarei, QSM, for services to the community; Richard Shepherd, of Whangarei, QSM, for services to Māori and the community; Dr Gordon Hosking, of Mangawhai, ONZM, for services to conservation; John Jackets, of Kerikeri, QSM, for services to music; Robert Tulloch of Whangarei, QSM, for services to seniors and people with disabilities.