Sue Morris has thrown off the mayoral chains and run back to the cowshed - but with the new title of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

Ruapehu Mayor for 12 years, Mrs Morris is one of 80 to receive an ONZM and is thrilled with the honour.

The mayor from 2001 to 2013, Mrs Morris stepped down this year to return to raising calves on the family's 680ha sheep and beef farm, and to have more time for her three grandchildren.

She loved the job of mayor, and was on the national Mayors' Taskforce for Jobs.

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"There have been lots of high points, not many lows," she said.

Mrs Morris worked for Ruapehu councillors for 16 years, as their executive officer, and had a good insight into the district's challenges.

In 2001, after leaving her job, Mrs Morris was worried about impending rates risesand led a rates march whereupon people asked her to stand for mayor.

She won the mayoralty easily at the election to become the district's first female mayor.

Although councillors were a bit wary of her at first, they were soon welded into a unified team.

"I have always believed to get anywhere you have to have good relationships with the people you want to do business with," Mrs Morris said.

The district's economy was in a bad way; the freezing works had closed, with a loss of 300 jobs, and the hospital and railway were downsizing.

Mrs Morris decided the answer for the district's health had to lie in tourism.

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"We rebranded and said 'Come on in' to the world."

Her jingle was: "If you hike, bike, fish or ski - Ruapehu is the place to be."

The Te Kahui Tupua initiative marketed the district overseas.

The business cases for two cycleways were prepared with both getting the nod for a quick start.

Since then more cycling opportunities have been added, more holiday homes are being built and golf carts are running on "the Forgotten Highway".

"It happened very, very quickly, once we got out of the starting blocks. Now it's about making it work," she said.

Helped by her public relations consultant daughter, Mrs Morris lobbied for The Overlander train to keep going, and to stop in the district. It now stops at National Park and Ohakune.

"I'm very proud of successfully campaigning to retain The Overlander," she said.

Mrs Morris's other focus was access to health services, and she established a local governance group to work with the Waikato District Health Board.

The toughest thing for the council was keeping roads, water and sewerage up to scratch, given the district's limited population and government's higher standards.

Mrs Morris was able to "smooth" rates bills by choosing when to make improvements. She chaired a group addressing the costs of supplying electricity to remote parts of the district.

Although, she is no longer mayor, Mrs Morris is still chairwoman of Enterprising Taumarunui and the health governance group is still going.

She would also like to see an aged care facility somewhere in the district.