Being named in the Queen's Birthday Honours isn't something that sits comfortably with Whanganui businessman David Bennett.

That's because he says becoming an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit is as much a recognition of the unfailing support of others, especially the staff at Pacific Helmets, a safety helmet business he and his wife Marion started in 1982.

Mr Bennett said he was "very humbled" to receive the award.

"But I really hope the team of people I've worked with at Pacific Helmets see it for what it really is " a recognition of them rather than me," he said,


"Our team here has always been, and continues to be, extremely loyal and maintain very high standards. That's built the success of our business."

Pacific Helmets has grown into an internationally-recognised helmet manufacturer, starting with motorcycle helmets then moving into other safety helmets and cycle helmets. Until recently Mr Bennett has served on a variety of international standards committees as an expert contributor into setting new helmet standards.

The school helmet programme in the 1980s and 1990s led to the compulsory wearing of cycle helmets and many of them were produced in Pacific Helmets' factory, saving hundreds of lives and reducing thousands of head injuries. In one 12-month period the factory produced 245,000 cycle helmets.

His company supports a number of charitable causes and employs some staff who have physical handicaps that stop them getting other forms of employment.

He serves on a number of boards and organisations and was recently instrumental in helping with the City Mission restructuring. In 2011 he chaired the Wanganui Technical College (now City College) centennial reunion.

He is also an elder of the Presbyterian Church and was a driving force behind the seismic restoration of the Westmere Presbyterian Memorial Church.

Mr Bennett told the Chronicle his work had been a lifetime of dealing with technical and competitive challenges in the safety helmet market but it was the skill set available in Whanganui that underpinned the company's success.