Whanganui's most recent Knight, Sir Robert Martin, and his wife Lynda were finally able to attend the ceremony for his investiture at Government House in Wellington on Monday.
The People First advocate and UN representative was honoured for services to people with disabilities with a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (KNZM) in the 2020 New Year Honours.
He was to have his new title officially bestowed by Governor-General Dame Patsy Reddy in April but Covid-19 restrictions meant the ceremony was delayed.
Martin said the honour now seems "more real" after the ceremony.
Tikanga has been incorporated into investiture ceremonies during Dame Patsy's term, and recipients are called in with a karanga followed by a karakia.
Martin said the experience of kneeling before the Governor-General as she tapped him on each shoulder with the ceremonial sword and said ''Arise, Sir Robert" was amazing.
"I did enjoy it and it was really nice to have Whanganui friends there with me," he said.
"I have lived in Whanganui for almost 50 years now and people here have been a very important part of my life journey."
After a childhood spent living in various institutions and foster homes, Martin said Whanganui is the place where he has found his identity and his calling.
"This is where the first People First group began and this community has always supported me.
"I would like to have a celebration here for the people who could not come to Wellington.
"My mother and my sister couldn't get there so it would be nice to have something here for them."
Martin was a founding member of the national Disabled Persons' Organisation People First New Zealand Ngā Tāngata Tuatahi and worked for many years with disability service provider IHC and Inclusion International – an international network of people with learning disabilities and their families.
He is currently serving as a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities for the 2017 to 2020 term and is New Zealand's nominee for the December 2020 election of the same committee.
The appointment recognises Martin's lifetime of advocacy for the rights of persons with disability and his achievements as the first person with a learning disability to be involved in the writing of a United Nations Convention – the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to be elected to a United Nations Human Rights Treaty Body and to chair a United Nations Committee session.
Martin was back at his desk in Whanganui Community House fulfilling his People First role on Wednesday and said the honour he has received is not just for him.
"To me, this award is not for me personally but it's actually for all people with learning disabilities," he said.
"It shows that people with a learning disability have leadership qualities."
His work, he said, is about dispelling negative attitudes about what is possible.
"We can achieve things that people thought were unachievable.
"Many people just didn't think we were worth anything.
"What we're trying to do is turn that all around and show that we can learn and we can do
anything, given the right assistance in our lives."
Sir Robert said it was good to see two other Whanganui honourees having their awards formalised at Government House on Monday.
Rick Rudd MNZM (New Zealand Order of Merit) and Olga McKerras QSM (Queen's Service Medal) were both named in the 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours list.
Rudd, who is the founder and curator of the Quartz Museum Of Studio Ceramics and the Rick Rudd Foundation received his honour for services to ceramic art and McKerras who served at Whanganui Budget Advisory Service for more than 30 years as well as doing numerous other voluntary work received her honour for services to the community.