3 Jun 2013

Artist leads Queen's Birthday honours

10:10 pm on 3 June 2013

Writer, poet and painter Albert Wendt is the recipient of the country's highest accolade, the Order of New Zealand, in the Queen's Birthday honours in which 179 people are recognised for their contribution.

Emeritus Professor Wendt said he is honoured and privileged to have spent his 73 years doing what he loves most - writing and painting.

"I can't stop writing. It's something that I love doing ... that's why I've really done it over the years. All our lives we have ups and downs - and some of the downs are really down. My writing has taken me out of those downs. I've written myself out of some of the worst crises in my life."

Professor Wendt said that upon becoming a member of the Order of New Zealand - an honour that only 20 living New Zealanders can have - he knew it was a sign from his best friend, the artist Ralph Hotere, who also received the Order of New Zealand and died earlier this year.

Four knights, one dame and a new addition to the Order of New Zealand have also been announced on Monday.

Nganeko Kaihau Minhinnick has been made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit and honoured for her work with Maori and conservation.

In 1985, the Manukau Claim she brought to the Waitangi Tribunal set a benchmark for the protection of the natural resources of Manukau Harbour. Dame Nganeko is the Kaitiaki of Ngati Te Ata and Secretary of Tahuna Marae Trustees. She said her her focus these days is on resolving Ngati Te Ata's Treaty settlements.

High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Lockwood Smith was knighted and honoured for services as a Member of Parliament and as Speaker of the House of Representatives. He said the honour reflects the importance of Parliament's role in a democracy, rather than his own personal achievements.

Former Queenstown mayor John Davies has been honoured for his services to business and tourism. The 71-year-old was mayor in the 1980s and said his proudest moment was when he fought to purchase a green space in the heart of the resort town.

Sir John owns a number of the city's tourism ventures including the skifields, and the Milford, Routeburn and Grenstone tracks.

Sevens coach Gordon Tietjens has been knighted and recognised for his services to rugby. The coach of the New Zealand Rugby Sevens team since 1994, he has won a World Cup, four Commonwealth gold medals and a number of World Series titles.

Despite being one of the best coaches in the world, Sir Gordon said he isn't a fan of acclaim.

"We're not in the coaching game to receive awards like that - we're in the coaching game because it's about a passion and it's something that I love being involved in. And obviously, coaching New Zealand is quite special.

Sir Gordon said he is very honoured and humbled at an acclaim he never thought he would receive. He believed it is also a celebration for his team as a whole.

Supreme Court judge Robert Chambers was notified that he would be knighted for his services to the judiciary before his death two weeks ago. Sir Robert died in his sleep on 21 May. His widow, Deborah, said it was lovely to recognise the knighthood at his funeral. She said her husband was dedicated to public service and was delighted by the public affirmation.

Other honours

Also recognised were the founder of Sky TV, Craig Heatley, Saatchi & Saatchi chief executive Kevin Roberts, former Rugby Union president Bryan Williams, Auckland High Court judge Christopher Allan and Wellington deputy mayor Ian McKinnon, who have been made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.

Others to be made Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit include Deidre Tarrant for services to dance, John Klaricich for Maori and the community, businessman Murray Horn, Peter Biggs for services to arts governance and philanthropy and former Rotary International president William Boyd.

Kevin Roberts said the smartest thing he ever did was move to New Zealand in 1989, when he took the helm of Lion Nathan before moving to Saatchi & Saatchi in 1997. He was kicked out of school at the age of 17 and has spent his life trying to mentor and guide youngsters. He said he feels honoured and staggered to be recognised.

William Boyd was chair of Rotary International in 2011 and 2012. He said he is proud to be a New Zealander and it was always a pleasure to hear the national anthem and see the New Zealand flag flying outside the Rotary building in the US city of Chicago.

Defence personnel

A Navy diver, an army intelligence officer in Afghanistan and the man who co-ordinated the cordons after the 2011 February earthquake in Christchurch are among Defence Force personnel to be recognised in the Queen's Birthday honours. They are among six personnel to receive the New Zealand Distinguished Service Decoration.

Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Michie was the commanding officer who took charge of the cordons around Christchurch's central business district for three months after the February quake.

Petty Officer Diver Scott Treleaven was involved in removing the body of a man from a helicopter in Lake Sumner and retrieving the body of a soldier from a lake near the Waiouru base.

Major Brent Quin worked as the Intelligence Officer for the Special Operations taskforce in Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011 where he gathered evidence to hamper insurgent attacks in Kabul.

Combat systems specialist Warrant Officer James Ernist Harper came up with a training model for underwater vehicles which has since been picked up by the United States military. He was also involved in underwater searches for the Princess Ashika ferry in Tonga and the Easy Rider in Foveaux Strait.

Lieutenant Colonel Robin Hoult developed a leadership programme for the Army while Sergeant Lindsay Norris trained people for search and rescue missions.

Antarctic Medal

A scientist has been awarded the New Zealand Antarctic Medal - the first time it has been given since 2010.

Professor Alan Thomas specialises in Antarctic terrestrial ecosystems and is a research professor for Waikato University and Universidad Complutense in Spain. He has been researching mosses and lichens in Antarctica for the past 33 years, involving 14 trips to the continent.

Nolan Baden, Emeritus Curator of Antarctic History at Canterbury Museum, has also been awarded the medal for his contribution to Antarctic Heritage. Over the past 60 years he has taught university classes, been an Antarctic ranger and helped restore Captain Robert Falcon Scott's hut.

QSM for foster couple

A couple who have fostered 82 babies in the Wellington region in the past 12 years have been awarded the Queen's Service Medal.

Ian and Raewyn, who do not want their surname made public, take in infants as young as a few hours old. Often the babies had to be taken from their families. They look after them until a permanent carer can be found and have had up to three babies in their care at a time.

Ian said they do not seek reward for the work they do, but it is humbling and gratifying to know it has been recognised in the honours list.