An Ōtaki Beach man with a passion for community and the arts has been awarded a Queen's Service medal in this year's Queen's Birthday Honours list for services to the arts.

Many people in Levin will remember Grant Stevenson, who from 1982 to 1989 was the then borough council's community affairs officer.

He lived in Ōtaki and Wellington for many years but he has left his mark on Horowhenua. He organised many community events and took charge of the fundraising for many projects, such as the Levin pool.

He organised the Levin Horticultural Field Days, led the Levin Smoke Free Fun Week in 1987 or 88.


"Research done after that week showed we raised the awareness about the effects of smoking by 99 per cent and saved the population 80 years of life," he said.

"I suggested the town [Foxton] be restored as the historical town it is. It is far enough away from the main road to retain that character and not be taken over by multiple petrol stations and fast food places or department stores that forever change the character of a place.

"We built the tram station and brought the horse-drawn tram and the Clydesdales up from Dunedin. That project created space in the heart of town for the Flax Stripper museum. A centennial project included planting by the river to complement that.

Jan Langen was among those locals advocating for the building of De Molen and Stevenson helped with lotteries grants and other funding applications.

"De Molen is utterly authentic," Stevenson said. "Someone went to Holland to get the plans, all of them in Dutch of course. De Molen still grinds flour ready to be turned into bread."

He believes the initial push for a tram station in the 1980s provided the space and the vision for other things to happen on that sight.

"And now there is the museum and the whole main street looks wonderful."

Stevenson is an independent event manager, and said that independence allows him to pick projects he considers worthwhile for the wider community. For him it is about social value for the community rather than making money.


"Independence also means you have no obligations to anyone because you aren't tied to anyone."

On behalf of the local distributors Village Roadshow he and a team of others organised the launch of the first two Lord of the Rings movies.

"We had the longest red carpet in the world running down Courtney Place to the Embassy Theatre.

His work has been appreciated by many. At a surprise retirement party last year in Wellington 80 people he was worked with from around the country turned up.

"I have always considered what I did worthwhile and this is a wonderful affirmation that says other people think so too."

He studied industrial design and got caught up in the craft boom of the 1960 and 70s. He spent eight years working and living in Ōtaki as a wood turner. He spent many years in Wellington but has acquired a piece of land near the beach in Ōtaki, designed and built a house on it some years ago.

"I was able to return here for good last year."

He is now teaching himself to paint and has also done sculpting.

Though now retired, his passion for community projects and the arts ensures he cannot help but get involved in projects such as the Kāpiti Performing Arts Centre at Kāpiti College, where he lent a hand with operational planning.

"I can chose what I do now, but have always looked for social value rather than capital gains for anyone."

During his working life he has been involved with the MTA 100, the tribute to Kate Sheppard, Ride for Your Life on the Wellington waterfront, Wellington Town Hall Centenary, Reading Cinema complex opening, designed and delivered entertainment for the first Sevens tournament, organised sponsorship and fundraising for Wellington's St James Theatre, the World Floral Art Show, Hawke's Bay Opera House launch, Wellington's cable car precinct, business Innovation growth events, research into the decline of bowls, and the NZ Centre for Photography.

His most memorable project was the Wahine commemorations.

"That was so moving. Of the 600 survivors of that 111 came to the commemorations and they had some great stories. I think the greatest feat of that disaster was the flotilla of boats that went out to rescue people. IThe commemorations very worthwhile but it took a lot out of everyone," he said.

More recently he was approached to help with Wellington's Old St Paul's.

He said the letter from Government House saying he was nominated for a QSM came completely out of the blue.

"I have no idea who has done this, but I like it as it is a nice affirmation that what I have chosen to do with my life is considered worthwhile by others, not just by me."