The world of film and television lured Raetihi's Larry Parr away from a career in law and he has been influential in that world for decades.

He was made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit last weekend, for services to film and television.

Parr now lives in Wellington and is the chief executive of Te Māngai Pāho, the body that funds Māori radio and television programmes. He's been involved with many well-known New Zealand films, including Smash Palace, Sleeping Dogs and Came a Hot Friday.

Parr was a bright boy who skipped two classes at Raetihi School. He got scholarships to study at St Stephen's College in Bombay, south of Auckland.


He took te reo Māori right through his secondary years and believes it's an opportunity all New Zealanders should have. He was the school dux, his dad Raymond "Rocky" Parr said.

Young Larry studied law, and got a full degree in two years, while working part-time for Kerridge Odeon Cinemas. He then went to work for Broadbank Corporation, and was there when Roger Donaldson (also made an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit) came asking for money to make the film Sleeping Dogs.

Parr read the script and helped raise the money. After going to its film festival premiere he left law and started work in film as producer, script writer, director and mentor to young people.

The first film he directed was The Makutu on Mrs Jones in 1983. He was a producer for Smash Palace and for Came a Hot Friday, which premiered in Raetihi in 1986. He also produced the ground-breaking television anthology series E Tipu e Rea.

"It gave a number of young Māori their first experience in film, and others the opportunity to extend themselves," he said.

His films A Soldier's Tale and Fracture have a special place in his heart, and he's proud of giving Anzac Day new importance in 2006, through programming he arranged at Māori Television.

He was there until 2008, but living in Auckland made him too distant from his family. In 2008 he became television manager at Te Māngai Pāho in Wellington, and its chief executive in 2016.

It was a very pleasant surprise to be given the honour, Parr said, and he is grateful for the support he has had from his family.